When U.S. Army Specialist Troy Garcia learned he’d be back home on Long Island Dec. 20, he had an idea: to surprise his mother.
The question was how he would pull it off.
“I told her I’m not going to be able to come home for Christmas,” Garcia, 18, of Coram, said of his phone conversations with his mother, ToniAnn Sambucci. “She said we’ll make a whole second Christmas. She called caterers.”
Garcia, who is stationed in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, his father, older brother and stepsister, spent about a month planning the surprise. On Monday, they took Sambucci out to Buffalo Wild Wings in Miller Place, where Garcia’s stepsister Angela Corvano, 24, of Coram, works.
Garcia, dressed in fatigues, went straight from the airport to the restaurant, where he entered through a back door. Surrounded by cellphone cameras, he carried a plate of chips and salsa from the kitchen to the table and yelled, “Merry Christmas.”
Sambucci put her hands over her mouth and froze. She was in tears. Garcia moved chairs out of the way, and his mother stood up and gave him a long embrace. The last time they saw each other was in October, when he graduated from training camp. Garcia expects to deploy to a base overseas in January.
“Immediately what went through my head was, ‘What is happening?’ and ‘How did you break him out of the base?’ ” Sambucci said. “Words cannot describe the feeling, it was awesome.”
The video of the homecoming was shared on social media and picked up by news outlets. Garcia said he was surprised by the attention.
“I expected it to be something that I would show to my friends, because there’s millions of us doing this around the world, to show the lengths we are willing to go for our families,” he said. “It means a lot.”