ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Many people are celebrating this Christmas apart due to the COVID-19 crisis. A St. Petersburg Police sergeant didn't expect her son in the U.S. Army to come home for the holidays this year, but he managed to pull off a big surprise.
"It was pretty unfortunate to not see your family on the day that you graduate, but then again, we are the Army," said Private Second Class Daeveon Oliver. "We are part of the military, so whatever happens, just happens, and we just have to adapt and overcome it."
Oliver left for basic training in July. Because of the pandemic, his family couldn't be there to see him graduate. His mom, St. Pete Police Sgt. Samora Church, says she hasn't seen her son since he left and wasn't expecting him home until after the New Year while he got started on his job.
"As a mom, that was the longest I've ever been away from him, so it was very tough," said Sgt. Church. "Facetime is okay. It's a nice resource, but it's nothing like having your son right here where you can grab him and touch him and love on him."
For Sgt. Church, Christmas came a day early. With the help of family and St. Pete Police lieutenants, Oliver devised a plan to surprise his mom while she was working at police headquarters on Christmas Eve.
"Him and another lieutenant came up to my desk and said, 'Hey, we've got a situation in the lobby, and we need you right now, " said Sgt. Church. "We all go marching down to the lobby of the police station, and I'm like, 'Where are the people that are wanting to make a complaint?' or something like that. And [Daeveon] pops up from around the corner, and as you can see in the video, I lost it."
After months apart, the family was finally reunited.
"It is great to have him home and that he's actually here for Christmas," said Sgt. Church. "If I could have anything for Christmas, he is enough, and I'm so happy."
Oliver says he's home for a few more days before he heads back to work.
"When I left the house it was kind of like an empty gap, like something was missing," said Oliver. "Just to see her reaction of me coming home just made me feel like everything was whole all over again."