Sitting on the floor at home, Bryon Honea plays with his phone. There’s a tree by the fireplace and stockings hang from the mantle. It reflects the homes of many families at Christmas. But for Bryon there’s something missing: his son, Bryce. However, while his dad thought he was serving in Afghanistan, their reunion was closer than Bryon realized.
Christmas is a time for families. So for those who have loved ones far away, for example serving in the military, it can be a particularly tough period of the year. Being stationed overseas can lead to sons, daughters, fathers, wives and siblings and others being absent.
As a result, time spent with such family members is particularly treasured. Although we live in a highly connected era, where no one is more than a click away on the likes of Facebook and Instagram, there’s nothing that compares to the connection of a warm hug from a loved one.
Bryon is one such father, whose son was serving in the Marines. And for Bryon, the bond he had with his boy, Bryce, was especially strong. As a single father, Bryon had raised his son all on his own. As a result, ever since Bryce was eight, they had been pretty much inseparable.
Upon leaving high school, Bryce opted to embark on a military career and signed up to be a Marine. Training is infamously brutal for those who wish to enlist. As the Marine Recruits website states: “Battles are won by overpowering the desire to quit with the perseverance to prevail.”
Indeed, training for the Marines is initially set at three “punishing” months – and that’s just to test whether recruits meet the necessary requirements to successfully progress. Only then will full training begin in a career specialty, which recruits select during the enlistment process.
It was this prolonged training regime, then, that kept Bryce away from his dad and step-mom, Ashley, for more than 12 months. And it looked as though Bryce would miss Christmas 2016 with his family in Peoria, Illinois, due to his military responsibilities. At least, that’s what he told his dad.
As Ashley explained in a Facebook post in December 2017, “Bryce had told [Bryon] he wouldn’t be home for Christmas because they were sending him off for more training before he gets deployed. We haven’t seen him since last Christmas.” A tough break, indeed.
Still, Bryon was at least surrounded by the rest of his family. There was his wife, Ashley, and two further sons, Krue and Ry. Also present that Christmas were Bryce’s grandparents. But even so, nothing could hide Bryon’s disappointment at his son not making it home for the holidays.
But Bryce and Ashley had a plan. Little did Bryon know, but he would be reunited with his Marine son sooner than he realized. It was a surprise that the pair had been plotting for months. And it wasn’t an easy mission to keep the ploy to themselves.
As Ashley explained, “It was tough keeping it secret because he would call while Bryon was around, and I would have to come up with a reason.” Consequently, when the Christmas period drew closer, it appeared that Ashley was running out of excuses for her phone calls.
So what were Bryce and his step-mom plotting between them? Well, all was revealed in a video that Ashley posted to her Facebook profile on December 23, 2016. The scene is very festive: the Christmas tree is decorated and the stockings are hanging from the fireplace.
Bryon is sitting on the floor, propped up against the couch. His phone is in his hands and he’s staring at it intently. Being so close to Christmas, could it be that he’s expecting a call from his son, whom he believes to be overseas due to his Marine training?
Bryce, however, isn’t the only thing missing from the family home. The tree has no gifts underneath it. But then a voice comes calling from hallway. It belongs to family friend Kelly Campbell, who has come bearing presents. The picture, then, is almost complete.
Bryon seems to barely look up from his phone as Kelly walks into the room. But then she does something that finally catches his attention. You see, gifts aren’t the only thing that she’s brought with her. Something else is lurking in the hallway. Or rather someone else.
Following Kelly into the room is none other than Bryce himself. For months he’d been plotting with Ashley to arrange his travel to get home for the holidays. It was a secret they’d struggled to keep for so long, given how close the family is and, well, sometimes these things can just slip out.
But keep it a secret they did and, consequently, Bryon’s reaction is priceless. He throws down his phone, holds his head in his hands in disbelief and exclaims, “Shut the…” His self-censorship is commendable, although it’s easy enough to fill in the blanks of what he was about to say.
Bryce walks over to his dad, who it seems is still trying to process what is happening. Finally, Bryon stands up and gives his son a long and drawn out hug – understandable since they haven’t seen each other in a year. Bryon is clearly overcome with emotion.
Ashley, who is filming the surprise reunion, says from behind the lens, “Can we quit lying now?” A lie it may have been, but this was a charade that was played out with the best of intentions. It was well executed, too. As Ashley admitted on Facebook, “Bryon had no idea he would be home for Christmas.”
Family life with a Marine in the fold, then, can be tough. But stolen moments such as these make the hard times a little easier. And it’s a vocation for Bryce that his parents are deeply supportive of. As Ashley wrote, “We are so very proud of the young man he has become. He has a heart of gold.”