(CBS News) - When cameras arrived at Millersville Elementary School in Maryland, 9-year-old Eben Pardue thought CBS Baltimore was covering a story about his school's cafeteria. But Wednesday's lunch was extra special.
What the third grader didn't know was that his father was about to walk through the doors behind him. Master Sgt. Thomas Pardue has been serving overseas for the past year in South Korea.
"Hey buddy," Pardue said, as Eben jumped up from the cafeteria bench. "How you doin'?"
Pardue was supposed to be home closer to Christmas, but couldn't wait to arrive home.
"Dad," Eben said, as he hugged and kissed his father in disbelief.
"You excited," Pardue asked. "It's been a long time, huh?"
Eben's mother, Susan, planned the surprise.
"It will be a wonderful Christmas," Susan said. "It will be nice to have him home, and I'm sure it will be one that we don't ever forget."
Pardue says he feels incredibly fortunate that he was able to come home for the holidays.
"I got to come home for Christmas and I am pretty excited about that," he said. "I hope that everyone remembers everyone who is not home right now, who is still overseas."
Pardue has served in the Army for 22 years. He was deployed just before Christmas last year.
"I am in military intelligence," he said. "So my job is to make sure we have the best intelligence we can on what's going on in the region so we can make the best decisions we can."
Now, the family is headed home to spend the holidays together.
"It's the best Christmas ever," Pardue said.