GUILFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — It was a home for the holiday’s surprise Wednesday that almost didn’t happen.

Not because Col. Al Giwa was late coming home from the Horn of Africa. But because his 7-year-old son, Jayden, didn’t feel well and was in the nurse’s office.

“I’m hoping I don’t start crying,” Giwa, who returned after four months away, said before surprising his son at school. “Jayden is kind of funny that way. He can be like, ‘Oh, hey Dad,’ or he’ll just jump up.”

But Jayden was in place at Guilford Lakes Elementary School’s library when his dad sneaked in.

“I didn’t recognize him, and then I recognized his beard, and I knew it was my dad,” Jayden said.

Giwa’s job has kept him away at Christmas before.

“As long as there was a big gift from Daddy, he was always okay,” Giwa said, adding that this year he wanted to be the surprise.

The two wore special bracelets while they were apart. Even when it broke, Jayden got another one.

Now, they’ll spend the next couple of weeks together after the long months apart.

“Although I love my Army and military family, there’s nothing like your real family,” Giwa said.