CAPE CARTERET, CARTERET COUNTY - It was a night of tears, hugs and happiness as Lt. Col. Philip Eilertson decided to surprise his three children at his son's football award ceremony at Western Park in Cape Carteret Tuesday night.
It's been nine months since the Eilertson children have seen their dad.
"My kids think I'm coming home in about two weeks for a two week R&R and then back to Afghanistan, but instead I'm coming home to stay," Lt. Col. Eilertson said.
Lt. Col. Eilertson, a New River Marine, just returned from his fifth and final deployment to Afghanistan.
It was an exciting night for many players as they received their football trophy, and for 10-year-old Brent Eliertson it was a ceremony he will never forget.
"I'm going to be here to surprise him and hand him his trophy and he doesn't know I'm going to be there," Lt. Col. Eilertson said.
He also surprised his 12 and 6-year-old daughters Grace and Faith.
"I feel blessed by God to be able to come home and see them and give them this surprise," he said.
Lt. Col. Eilertson's wife Paige planned the big event.
"I'm just so proud of my husband and my kids," she said. "They are my heroes. It's hard having your husband and your daddy gone for so long."
"Well I was like really surprised because I thought it was like a dream. Whenever I was first watching I was like is that my dad and I figured out that it was," the oldest daughter Grace said.
"At first I didn't see him and then I was like wow I didn't even know it was real. I was really surprised and excited," Brent explained.
Lt. Col. Eilertson said he's glad to be home just in time for the holidays.
"It's just a blessing from God to be able to come home and surprise them and be with them," he said. "We are a family again and that's the important thing."