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Soldier Dressed as Santa Surprises Mom

Friday, Dec 27, 2013  |  Updated 9:21 AM PDT
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A 29-year-old Army soldier serving in Afghanistan secretly came home for the holidays to New Jersey and surprised his mother at her company Christmas party by dressing up as Santa.

Travis Ruggiero didn't tell most of his relatives that he was coming home, going so far as to stay with cousins and sneaking around town for two days so as not to ruin the surprise.

He rented a Santa suit and showed up at the work party for his mother, Leslie Ruggiero, a nurse in a maternity ward.

His mother, not knowing she was standing right in front of her son, was handed a card and became emotional as she read it.

"It's from my baby," she exclaimed.

"And where is he?" asked another person at the party, apparently in on the ruse.

"Afghanistan," she said, weeping, and not noticing her son behind her, taking off his Santa hat, hair and beard. 

Then she turned and saw her son. The room erupted as they embraced.

The Ruggieros later appeared on the "Today" show, where Leslie Ruggiero said she was "still in awe that he pulled this off."

"He's been away from home for years but always made that effort to be with family for Christmas," she said.

Travis Ruggiero said he had "a couple of close calls" before the surprise, but was proud to have made it work.

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