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Photo Information

Gunnery Sgt. Alex F. Melo, the counter improvised explosive device chief for 2nd Marine Division Forward, surprises his wife Grety Melo, with an early homecoming for rest and recuperation from Afghanistan, Dec. 18, at their home aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. His family was under the impression he was coming home two days later and had no idea he was hiding around the corner to surprise them.::r::::n::::r::::n::

Photo by Cpl. Andrew D. Johnston

Early holiday homecoming surprises Camp Lejeune family

19 Dec 2011 | Cpl. Andrew D. Johnston

One family got a gift they definitely were not expecting this year and tears of joy we’re gushing when they received it. Gunnery Sgt. Alex F. Melo, the counter improvised explosive device chief for 2nd Marine Division Forward, made a plan to surprise his family with an early homecoming.

His family, who lives on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejune, N.C., were anticipating him home a little later than expected—they had no idea what he had planned.

Arriving two days early, he had been preparing a shocker for his family. Telling his wife the Marine public affairs office in Afghanistan had been covering his work, he arranged for Marines in the rear to do an interview with her for the article. After arriving on base he had the Marine contact his wife to do the story.

Under the impression her husband was coming home on the Dec. 20, she began the interview and began talking about how excited she was for him to be coming home for the holidays. Although it was only two weeks of rest and recovery time, she said the family would cherish every waking moment they had with him.

After five minutes of discussion the Marine told the family he wanted to take a group photo and said he left the camera in the car. As discussed, that was the cue for Melo to head to the door. Just like a Marine on the battle front he was hiding in the bushes trying to conceal his location. One of his daughters was weary something was up.

“I wasn’t sure what was going on but I definitely was suspicious,” said Katherine M. Melo, one of Alex’s daughters. “I was pretty sure I saw somebody else outside and I was pretty sure I saw part of my dad’s head peeking around the corner.”

Not expecting their father at the door, Alex rang the door bell. The family cracked the door implying the other Marine had already been welcomed into their home so there was no need to knock. His wife could be heard saying, ‘Come on in,’ he rang again. One of his daughters opened the door and screamed, ‘Daddy.’ The entire family broke down and embraced each other in a tearful group hug.

“It has been tough at times but we make it work,” said Grety Melo, Alex’s wife. “You worry and you wonder if it’s the last time I’ll see him. We have been married 16 years and when I saw him I just wanted to jump on him. I couldn’t believe it.”

Kimberly Melo, another one of Alex’s three kids, said she was so happy to see him. She began explaining how her intuition had been bugging her in her sleep. As she began talking about her dreams, tears of joy overwhelmed her and she ran into her father’s arms.

“It was crazy because I had all of these dreams of my dad coming home,” said Kimberly. “I thought it was a trick but it turned out to be real. I missed him so much and it’s so great to be with him.”

Alex said he plans on doing some last minute holiday shopping to get some presents for the kids. He is looking forward to some good old American food because he said the stuff he was eating in Afghanistan doesn’t compare. He said how much he is blessed to be alive and that at times he wasn’t sure he was going to make it back.

“Today I’m just going to spend time with my family,” said Alex.” I just want to enjoy, not only my family, but America and the things we take for granted. My wife is just as beautiful as she was when I left, if not more. I’m just so happy you have no idea. I’m really happy and excited I was able to see my family again.”