Valon Leroux, 7, sat at a Florida restaurant, clutching a small stuffed doll of a uniformed woman, ready for a normal weekend meal.
Or so she thought.
Waiting outside the North Bay Village restaurant this weekend was an unlikely surprise: Navy Reservist Nicole Leroux, Valon’s mother, was home early from a 10-month deployment in East Africa, FOX35 reported.
“I’m shaking. I’m so nervous,” Leroux told WSVN. “I’ve been dreaming about this day for a long, long time now, so I’m excited."
Valon thought her mother was returning the following week. But as she ate her lunch, Leroux walked into the restaurant.
When Valon saw her mom, she turned around and gave the returning soldier an emotional embrace. The surprise was a huge success.
“I’ve been thinking about this day for 10 months now, and I can’t believe it’s finally here,” Leroux said.
As the two hugged, Valon held up her stuffed doll: “It’s my mom doll."
The doll, with a picture of her mother stitched to the front, was a small reminder for Valon while Leroux was away.
Karl Riedel, Valon’s father, made sure the surprise went according to plan.
“She’s been wanting to do all kinds of stuff – go to the beach, and I was like ‘Hold on kiddo, we have a plan today,'” he said. “I’m just glad it all worked out, and I’m glad she’s home safe.”