Christmas wishes do come true. Just ask five-year-old twins, Bennett and Nathan Rueter, preschool students at Jefferson Elementary School in Roxbury Township. They were told their dad, James Rueter, a service member in the National Guard would be coming home for Christmas and the countdown was on for his return.
James had been overseas in Jordan for the last eight months and 24 days and away from his family for an overall 325 days (not that he was counting). He arrived home early and surprised his boys with a visit to their school.
Bennett and Nathan’s preschool teachers Rebecca Hutsebaut and Suzanne Flammer worked with the family to make his homecoming special. James knew that he would be getting in before Christmas but wasn’t exactly sure when and he wanted to do something at school with his boys.
So Hutsebaut and Flammer worked with Principal Melissa Cosgrove to have all the preschool and kindergarten classes meet in the Media Center and sing holiday music with Bennett and Nathan front and center for when their dad came up behind them to say hello getting big hugs from both in return. So excited, Bennett began giving hugs to all of his classmates while Nathan gave a big thumbs up.
For the past year, Bennett and Nathan along with their mom, Samantha and 16-month-old baby brother Mason have been communicating almost daily with James thanks to Facetime and having wi-fi where he was stationed.
James actually arrived home late at night unbeknownst to his sons and snuck upstairs after the boys were asleep. Only mom and Mason knew he was home, but Mason wasn’t saying anything.
With James now home, their celebratory homecoming dinner would be taking place at Jersey Mikes as James was in charge of making the dinner selection.
James’ National Guard will be home for the next four years as New Jersey is on a four-year cycle for deployments so aside from a few weekends a month, he’ll get to be home with his family and see his boys grow.
Now in the New Year, James will begin looking for work as he had to quit his job as a drug counselor at Day Top when he deployed. Even deployed, James always remained a member of the school community with the school sending care packages to his unit last spring.