Though the global telecoms of today have made communication possible from nearly anywhere, there are still those–such as the men and women of our military–whose ability to interact with friends and loved ones is hampered by their duty. While this distance can often strengthen and solidify relationships, it can also destroy them.

When one U.S. Navy man suspected that his wife was hiding something big from him, she was able to use their lack of communication to her advantage. But the moment he returned home, this sailor received news that turned his world upside down.

Military men and women are often required to make the difficult sacrifice of being away from their families for months–or even years–at a time. But while being away from those you love is hard enough as it is, it becomes even harder when you discover you’re being lied to.

Coronado Common Sense

For Navy Seaman Chris Daugherty, his six-month deployment aboard the USS Carl Vinson proved more difficult than imagined when calls home to his wife Natasha left him feeling like there was something she wasn’t telling him. Given their history, this wasn’t an unfounded fear for Chris…

After his second overseas deployment in 2009, Chris returned home to San Diego, California thrilled to finally spend some quality time with Natasha and their young son. What he found instead was every military man’s nightmare.

The entire house was empty, no sign of his wife or child anywhere. As he’d soon find out, Natasha apparently had enough of waiting around on her own for her husband. 

After living and raising a child alone for an entire year, Natasha decided to move back to their hometown of Oswego, Illinois. Though Chris managed to convince Natasha to return to California, things were never quite the same.

Chris Daugherty / Facebook

Over the next few years, the couple welcomed two more children, yet all the long overseas tours and the trust issues that had developed put a serious strain on their marriage. A child of divorce himself, Chris was willing to do whatever it took to spare his own children the same fate.

But after a few months on tour, Chris received a message from one of his buddies back home about Natasha. Apparently, something seemed “off” about his wife, and she was becoming noticeably more reclusive around the neighborhood.

What’s worse, Natasha had even begun to sell off some of Chris’ personal belongings. Try as he might to justify his wife’s strange behavior, Chris couldn’t shake the feeling that Natasha was keeping something from him.

Mark Turnauckas /Flickr

As it turns out, she was. Natasha was keeping a huge secret from her husband, one she was dying to tell him. The guilt was eating her alive.

Natasha had considered emailing Chris dozens of times to break the news, but words on a computer screen wouldn’t do justice to a secret this big. To make matters even worse for Natasha, Chris’ life was now in more danger than ever before.

As a show of force, the USS Carl Vinson was ordered to the waters just off the coast of North Korea, extending Chris’ deployment for another month. This made keeping her secret nearly impossible for Natasha.

Fortune

Natasha knew that she would be devastated if something happened to Chris before he learned the truth, and she debated telling him over the phone. In the end, Natasha decided to wait until Chris came ashore to finally come clean.

Chris Daugherty / Facebook

On the day of Chris’ homecoming, Natasha gathered their three children and headed down to the docks. Nervous as she was, it was finally time for her secret to be revealed. 

Natasha Daugherty / Facebook

As Chris ran to meet his children, he noticed that his wife was holding a strange sign, which read: “Welcome Home Baby Daddy.” Chris was puzzled. 

Questions swirled in Chris’ head as he approached Natasha, but before he could ask she removed the sign and tossed it aside. Chris was stunned at the sight: Natasha had a baby bump!

Natasha Daugherty / Facebook

At first, Chris thought it was a prank, and even went as far as to ask his wife if it was real. Sure enough, it was, and Chris took Natasha into his arms to celebrate his wife’s pregnancy of their fourth child.

As it turns out, Natasha learned that she was pregnant just days after Chris was deployed. From that moment on, she was determined to keep the pregnancy a secret from him until he returned home.

Natasha Daugherty / Facebook

In order to pull off her ruse, Natasha stayed out of the public eye for most of her pregnancy and even went as far as covering her stomach when sending Chris pictures of her and the kids. No wonder everyone thought she was acting so strange!

Natasha Daugherty / Facebook

Though the couple didn’t have plans for a fourth child, they both secretly had hoped that Natasha would eventually become pregnant again. The look on Chris’ face clearly shows how happy he was to see that their secret hope had become a reality.

Natasha Daugherty / Facebook

Thankfully, Chris won’t be deployed again for several months, allowing him to be home for the birth of their child. And for those wondering at home: it’s a girl!

For the entire Daugherty clan, Chris’s dramatic surprise would be a memory they’d treasure forever. However, it’s one thing for a family to keep a secret from a loved one while overseas. What happens when it’s the Service member who keeps their family in the dark?

For 9-year-old Luca Cesternino, there was no bigger hero in the world than his dad Rob. When Luca was little, the two of them were practically inseparable, and Rob would do anything for his kids.

Rob also served as a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army. Aside from his fatherly duties, nothing made him prouder than the chance to serve his country over the years. And in May of 2018, Rob got some big news.

DVIDS

Later that month, the Army was deploying him to a tour in Syria and Lebanon. Of course, he didn’t protest this decision, but he realized the impact it would have on his family. Rob could only hope he’d return home soon — and safely.

So, the Cesternino family bid their father a tearful farewell. Rob’s longtime wife Leah knew the rigors and demands of the military life. She could handle it, but she harbored some doubts about how her kids would cope.

As the youngest member of the family, Luca took his dad’s absence particularly hard. Leah tried to keep him occupied with fun activities like martial arts and football, but he still seemed down so much of the time.

Rob too struggled being overseas, and his homesickness grew as the months passed by. Still, he remained strong. In the end, he knew that he was making his home and country a better place. However, he wondered if he could do anything special for his family.

Ultimate Air Force Basic Training

In early 2019, Leah got an update from her husband, and he sounded far more excited than usual. Rob said he had some important news to share, but only on the condition that Leah didn’t tell their kids.

Facebook / Rob Cesternino

Leah agreed and tucked away the precious information that Rob relayed to her. His secret scheme involved one of Luca’s taekwondo practices that March. It began just like any other session…

Things took a turn, however, when Luca’s instructor announced he would blindfold his student for a demonstration. This was a class full of nine-year-olds — why was the teacher pulling some trick out of a kung fu movie?

Fist of Legend

Once Luca’s eyes were covered, however, his instructor stepped back. A newcomer entered the ring in his place, and Luca took a few hard swings at his pads. Then the stranger interrupted the demonstration with an unexpected question.

Today

“Come on,” he said. “Is that all you got?” Luca swore he recognized that voice, but it all seemed too good to be true. The boy ripped off his blindfold and almost couldn’t believe his eyes.

Today

His dad was back! Rob and Luca shared a warm embrace, and the entire room broke out in applause. Collectively, the world let out one great big aww.

In the middle of their tear-filled hug, Rob promised his son that he was home to stay and that he was so incredibly proud that Luca held up for the nine months he was gone. 

NBC News

There’s no doubt that this surprise reunion was the highlight of young Luca’s life. Trying to process his whirlwind of emotions, he explained, “I feel joy in my heart. I’m never gonna leave his side.”

Facebook / Leah Cesternino