FARGO - Christmas arrived early for 4-year-old Owen Henry on Thursday when his father, a soldier in the Army, paid a surprise visit during a meeting with Santa Claus.
The reunion at Fargo's West Acres Shopping Center made for the best Christmas ever, according to the boy's mother, Leah Henry, whose husband, Nick Henry, has been serving on a training mission in Kuwait.
Nick Henry has about two weeks off before he must return to Kuwait, and he plans to spend the time with his family in Moorhead, where they will be staying with Leah Henry's parents.
Owen, the eldest of the Henrys' two sons, said in a letter to Santa that what he wanted for Christmas was to have his dad back home.
And that's what he got Thursday morning, just moments after he renewed his request in a chat with Santa himself.
When Nick Henry arrived ringing sleigh bells, his son didn't have much to say. But his grin said it all.
"That smile. I've missed his smile," Nick Henry said as he held his boy.
"I'm not too sure he knew what was going on, right away. But he's excited, and so am I," Nick Henry added.
Helping make the reunion happen was Randy Long, owner of Santa Magic, which has hosted Santa at the mall for many years.
Long said calls like the one he received from Leah Henry don't come along often, but when they do, it's something special.
Leah Henry said she was happy with how things turned out Thursday morning, adding that while her 10-month-old, Crosby, was too young to really appreciate it, Owen for sure did.
"It's been tough these last few months for him," she said before she encouraged her son to thank Santa.
"Thank you, Santa," the 4-year-old said.
"You're welcome," Santa replied. Then he added: "Give me five."
Owen gave him five.