WOODBURY, N.J. (CBS) — Military homecomings always pull on the heartstrings, especially during the holiday season. An 11-year-old boy from Deptford Township had his Christmas wish come true while caroling with his Oak Valley Elementary classmates at a senior center on Wednesday morning.
Mark DiTizio told the audience at Atrium Post Acute Care of Woodbury all he wanted for Christmas was for his brother, Private Second Class Eric Shaw, to come home from the military.
Little did he know, he was about to get the surprise of a lifetime.
“All I want for Christmas is to see my brother who’s in the United States military,” Mark said.
As Mark walked away he heard, “I am here,” and turned around to find his brother standing there — instantly bringing him to tears.
“For weeks my parents have been asking, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ And I kept saying each and every single time, ‘I want to see my brother,'” Mark said. “Until a day ago they said, ‘So you are sticking to your word?’ And I said ‘Yes.’ And today he’s here.”
Touching moment today when 11-year-old Mark DiTizio from Deptford, NJ said his Christmas wish was having his older brother Private 2nd Class Eric Shaw home for Christmas,,, then it happened. pic.twitter.com/lTKYav7n5B
— Cleve Bryan CBS3 (@CleveBryan) December 18, 2019
Shaw says the surprise included telling little “white lies.”
“I’ve known about this for two months or so,” Shaw said. “I had to do little white lie telling. It was awesome. I’m thankful for the school, thankful for the wonderful building we are in and to make a memory.
“It means the world. Family is everything. I mean happiness and family is the reason to wake up in the morning and it’s an amazing feeling. I’m trying to get used to it again. I’m still trying to realize I’m home.”
Their mother, Nicole DiTizio, became Shaw’s accomplice to the surprise after he slipped up and accidentally told her he was coming home for Christmas back in October. They surprised his sister during her second-period class Wednesday morning before coming to the senior center.
“It did a little white lies here and there to the point I faked mailed cookie packages to him so he’d have cookies for Christmas, all kinds of little things to throw them off,” DiTizio said.
DiTizio is friends with one of the employees at the Atrium Post Acute Care of Woodbury and she helped her make the choir surprise happen.
“I’ve always told my kids the best gift you can give someone is your time,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of losses in the family. We have realized the best [gift] you can give someone is time and make a memory. Rather than give them a present, take them out and do something with them, give them an experience. So that had a lot to do with our mentality going into this.”
Shaw has been in the military for about seven months and this is the first time he’s been home.
“I’ve been trying to stay in people’s lives the best I can while focusing on my duty, because ultimately the duty comes first,” Shaw said. “However, it’s a very interesting experience. I’m very happy I did it. It changed me as a person. It’s great.”
Shaw plans to spend 17 days home before heading back to Arizona so he can complete his military training.
CBS3’s Cleve Bryan contributed to this report.