Gage and Jacob Buchanan, ages 8 and 5 respectively, arrived at the Jasper Mall Friday afternoon and thought they were only going to have their picture made with Santa. Little did they know what was in store for them.
Pvt. Second Class Arron Buchanan, the boys’ father, recently enlisted in the United States Army. His wife Tiffany Buchanan said Arron has been gone since August, which is the longest amount of time he has ever spent away from his family.
“They think he’s not going to be home until Christmas Eve,” Tiffany said. “He knew that he was going to be coming home early, so the original date was Christmas Eve. Then, they found out that they were going to be getting out on the 19th.”
At first, Arron wanted to surprise the boys at their elementary school, but then decided against it once he learned students were having to attend for only half of the day. Tiffany suggested surprising their children at the mall while they visit Santa, and that’s exactly what he decided to do Friday afternoon.
Hiding behind Santa’s chair and draped underneath a Christmas blanket, Arron waited until his boys walked down through the mall from J.C. Penney. Arron said he was excited and eager to see his sons.
When asked what they plan to do after the meeting in the mall, Buchanan said, “We’re going to a Christmas light show in Fayette, and then Sunday we’re going around the neighborhood singing Christmas carols.”
As the boys approached Santa, smiles already illuminated their faces. They sat on Santa’s lap and posed for the picture but after photographer Chris Tompkins counted to three, the boys soon realized that their father had made it home early for Christmas. While tears streamed down the cheeks of Tiffany and other family members who were present, Arron came out from behind St. Nick’s chair and wrapped both boys in his arms.
Gage and Jacob were very pleased to see their dad and planned to give him plenty of hugs. Tiffany and Arron have been married for 10 years, yet they have dated since they were 15 years old. She is a 2003 graduate of Carbon Hill High School, and Arron is a 2003 graduate of Lynn High School.
He was stationed in Fort Sill, Okla., for four months and even though he was only hundreds of miles away, he might as well have been halfway around the world. However, thanks to modern technology the Buchanans kept in touch via cellular phone and Skype.
“It’s worth everything to me to do this for them. I’ve had to do all the Christmas shopping by myself, and it’s hard to do when all they tell you that they want for Christmas is for their daddy to be home,” Tiffany said. “Jacob had actually written a letter at school, and that was the only thing he put on his letter in the paper last week that he wanted his daddy home.”