JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Many of our military men and women will spend the holidays serving the country and away from family. However, that won't be the case for one First Coast man.
Stationed on the USS Hue City, Navy Petty Officer Second Class John Legezdh had been out to sea since June. He wasn't supposed to be home until March 2013, but an early homecoming meant a Christmas surprise for his five-year-old daughter, Brianna.
"I haven't been able to hold her for six months," says Legezdh. "She did her Santa letter and I was the first thing: 'Bring daddy home.'"
This would have been the first Christmas Brianna would have spent without her daddy, but an unexpected change in plans during his deployment overseas made her wish come true.
Legezdh surprised Brianna at the Avenues Mall when she went to visit Santa.
Legezdh's wife, India, said they've been together for 15 years, and this would have been their first Christmas apart, too.
"I don't even ... I can't even ..." she grins. "Just the look on her face. That was it. There is no feeling or words to really describe that feeling."
Although a happy reunion doesn't mean that there weren't challenging moments while he was gone.
"When we pulled into port, we had Skype and all that, but it's still not the same as being able to have that contact. It makes it so much harder," said Legezdh. "Then she's asking you the questions, 'Daddy, when are you coming home?' 'Daddy, why are you not here?' 'Daddy, why are you on the ship?' All those questions, they tear at you and it's hard."
But the difficulty makes the homecoming all the sweeter.
"I'll take what I can get. If it was a day, it's better than nothing," said India Legezdh. "That's one more day that you have compared to one less day that you may have had. So, until we have to say goodbye again, I'm going to enjoy every moment that I possibly can."
Legezdh will be home with his family until February, when he'll return back to sea.
The family plans to go to Disney World for Christmas.
If you would like to contribute to care packages for the service men and women who will be overseas for the holidays, you can find links to charitable organizations that help send gifts, cards and care packages to our troops here: http://www.military.com/spouse/military-life/military-resources/how-to-support-our-troops.html
First Coast News