By Matt Petrillo


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia boy received a big surprise at Wednesday night’s Sixers’ game. The hug between Staff Sergeant Ivan Thomas and his 12-year-old son was 18 months in the making.

“It was a lot of emotion,” Thomas said,

“It’d been a long time since we’ve seen each other,” 12-year-old Ivan said.

For most of us, holidays are about family and togetherness.

For military families, holidays are a little different. Thomas has been away from his family for a year-and-a-half while deployed in South Korea.

That’s why the North Philadelphia native wanted to give his son a big surprise. So when he returned home Wednesday night, he had the Sixers tell his 12-year-old son a little white lie.

“They told me I was going to go out onto the court to recognize my dad for his military services. So that’s when we got the big surprise,” Ivan said.

That big moment finally came when Thomas reunited with his son on the court just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family.

It was a surprise Thomas almost missed after his flight to Philly from Detroit had been delayed a few hours.

“I knew I had to try everything possible to make that experience happen,” Thomas said.

And there was a second surprise, too. Thomas announced he’s set to retire from active duty to spend more time with his family.

“It’s important to actually be there and be present,” Thomas said.

Thomas also says he’s looking forward to being at every birthday party, Christmas celebration and Thanksgiving dinner with his family for now on.