Soldier Pops Out of Box to Surprise Niece - Must Watch Video

Spending the holidays at home with those we love is one of life’s luxuries those in our armed forces don’t take for granted, and this Christmas, Sgt. Ricardo Cruz will take advantage of every moment he has with his family.

The soldier had been in Afghanistan for most of the year, and was not expected to be home until next March. However, good fortune allowed him to return to Florida and make a very special surprise happen for his 9-year-old niece, Genesis Cruz-Santiago, for whom he is a father figure.

“I haven’t surprised her like this before, so this one is going to be one for the books,” he said.

The staff at Mort Elementary School in Tampa helped organize an epic homecoming celebration during a school holiday assembly for Sgt. Cruz while keeping the whole event a secret from his niece.

The affair involved decorating a ventilated, life-sized box large enough for Sgt. Cruz to hide in. During the assembly, the staff wheeled him in and called Genesis up to the front to open her surprise.

“I’m happy that he’s home for Christmas,” said Genesis. “I was worried. I wanted him to be safe.”

And when asked about the things she wants to do with her uncle while he is home, she said: “I want to do anything as long as I can be with him as long as possible.”