CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Christmas came early for a Cape Girardeau family.
Their loved one is home for the holidays after being gone for nearly a year.
Staff Sergeant Mike Probst is a member of the National Guard's 1-138th Infantry Regiment.
He left last December and headed first for training.
It was in preparation for a 10-month deployment to Qatar where they provided security for bases in that area.
Back at home, Mike's wife Ashley had the big job of raising the couple's 5 children.
"It was really tough, watching them grow up knowing he's missed so much," said Ashley Probst.
Mike's unit came home to St. Louis on Thursday, December 7, but the couple's children had no idea.
On Friday afternoon, Cape Central Middle School helped Mike and Ashley surprise their 10-year-old son, Sean.
Sean sat unknowingly in an assembly and listened to a band play music.
He assumed that's why he was there with his classmates.
Little did know, when his principal called him to the front that the assembly was all for him and his dad.
He turned around and couldn't believe his father was standing right next to him.
He wasn't expecting him home for a couple more weeks or possibly even next month.
"It took me a second to realize it, I had to look up and I was excited and immediately hugged him," said Sean.
After leaving Sean's school, the surprise patrol moved to Clippard Elementary School.
That's where 8-year-old Alannah also sat in a school assembly, assuming she was there to only listen to a music program.
Like her brother, she was overwhelmed with emotions when her father walked in during the final number of the performance.
She ran to her father's arms with tears in her eyes.
"Whenever I saw him I was surprised and excited," said Alannah.
Mike Probst said he's thankful for technology over the last year.
With the help of videos and pictures he was been able to watch his children grow long distance.
"Thankfully, there was internet over there," said Probst.
He said the last three weeks have felt like an eternity as he has been anxiously awaiting his return home.
After surprising the two older children, there was one last stop.
The Probst's also have three younger children.
Ezekiel is 4, Alexander is 2, and Rosalynn is 1.
Mike worried little Rosie wouldn't recognize him since she was only seven months old the last time he saw her.
"She was only crawling last time, now she's walking and running and talking," said Probst.
The younger children were at his parent's home in Cape Girardeau and were very surprised when their daddy walked through the door.
The two boys ran to his arms and it was like they couldn't believe he was actually there.
Rosie took a little longer to understand what was happening.
After some coaxing with a few pieces of chocolate, Rosie warmed back up to Mike.
Now they can relax and get ready to celebrate Christmas.
But, first things first.
"I want to go get ice cream," said 8-year-old Alannah.
Ice cream first and then they'll figure out the rest.
As long as they are together, Mike says that's all that matters.
"I'm actually here again, it's surreal and it feels good," said Mike.