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SALT LAKE CITY — Christmas came a few days early for a 6th grade girl at Bennion Elementary School during her school Christmas program.
Rayni Merlette's father, Jeremy Merlette, is currently serving in the Utah National Guard and is stationed in Afghanistan, and she wanted nothing more than him to be home for Christmas.
Rayni introduced a musical tribute to the armed forces during the program and talked about her dad.
"He won't be home for Christmas, but I am so proud of him, and I love him," she said.
Then the lucky girl received an early Christmas surprise when Santa Clause made an announcement that she had a special present. Her dad walked through the door.
After spending 10 months serving in Afghanistan, Sgt. Merlette was told a week ago that he would get to come home on leave to spend the holidays with his family.
"They said, 'We'll see if we can get you out there,'" Sgt. Merlette said. "I wasn't necessarily certain. It was kind of a surprise to me."
It was a happy moment for Rayni and her older sister Samantha in being reunited with their father.
"I definitely appreciate all the support I have gotten from everybody," Sgt. Merlette said.
The students re-performed many of their acts from their Christmas program for Merlette, including their remake of Gangham Style becoming Santa style.
Merlette will leave on December 28th to return to Afghanistan to serve for a few more months.