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Navy lieutenant surprises kids on return home

Family caught off-guard after not seeing dad in a year

CAMBRIDGE, Wis. - VIDEO: Navy lieutenant surprises kids on return home or the video section of our app

He was supposed to come home later this month, but when the U.S. Navy hinted that he could be home early, Lt. Kris Breunig jumped all over the opportunity.

"This will be my last deployment, knock on wood," Breunig said.

Breunig has been serving in the Middle East for most of the last three years. He was initially deployed to Afghanistan, but was most recently in Egypt and Qatar. He said it feels like just yesterday that he enlisted. That was 20 years ago.

Once he had his tickets home in hand, Breunig and his wife, Nadine, got to planning his return. They mapped out a scheme, a surprise in the Cambridge homecoming parade. That would have worked if the rain didn't keep his son's third grade class inside.

When the Cambridge Elementary principal turned off a movie on the big screen and turned on the lights, Tyler Breunig never expected the announcement he was about to hear. Then he saw his dad walk into the small theater. After a moment of disbelief, there was nothing else to do but run straight into his arms.

"Very surprised that daddy came home," Tyler said. "I was expecting him to come home maybe like the 12th or something like that."

Tyler turns nine this month, and dad didn't want to miss it.

"I've missed six of those nine years," Breunig said.

The boys have been bonded by bracelets, ones they rarely take off.

Breunig said technology helps him stay in touch, but it's nothing compared to coming home to his wife, Tyler, and four-year-old Alyssa.

"It's not this. And it takes away from, you know, this is the part he likes, the hugs and the sitting and having late midnight ice cream, which I plan on doing tonight by the way," Breunig explained.

"Their faces light up when they recognize and realize that he's actually here instead of just looking at him on the computer, you know," wife Nadine said. "You can kind of get used to that."

Nadine, Tyler, and Alyssa have been living with the kids' grandfather in Cambridge over the last three years. While Breunig will be stationed in California in the coming year, but he plans to buy a nearby property and settle down there as soon as he retires.

"Everybody knows that we're in the military and there's sacrifice that goes along with it," Breunig said. "But what a lot of people don't take into consideration is the sacrifice that's going on back home."

"Today when I got him from the airport picking him up, as soon as I saw his face, it's just like instant kind of relief, like I can stop stressing so much," Nadine said.

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