NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - The holidays are about spending time with family, however, that is not always a guarantee for the men and women serving the country. So this year, one Marine got a little help from Santa to make a surprise return to Eastern North Carolina.
Before a busy Christmas Eve, the big man in red sat up in his home in Bear Plaza in New Bern ready to bring some smiles to the faces of three little girls.
Neveah, Lexi and Kadence brought a teddy bear dressed in uniform and one wish - that their Uncle Hunter Watson, stationed in California, could return home for Christmas.
During their snapshot with Santa, Watson popped up from behind and posed for the photo. The girls didn't realize Santa helped deliver their uncle home until they say the picture.
"It was a whirlwind of emotions. I went up there and you couldn't help but cry," Marisa Tanner, the girls mother and Watson's sister said.
Watson has been stationed at Camp Pendleton and has not seen his nieces in about a half a year.
"To be able to get the opportunity to do it, it's a really good feeling for everybody," Watson said. "It's good to be home for Christmas."
Watson's family says even though it can be hard, they are proud he is serving the country and cherish these moments together.
"You're not always guaranteed they're going to be here for the holidays. They miss things like birthdays and graduations," Tanner said. "It's hard but in the end it's worth it."
Watson will be home for the next 10 days and says he is excited to spend time with family, friends and of course his nieces.