SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — There’s no place like home for the holidays and tonight a seaman from Sacramento is spending Christmas with his family, after a surprise reunion that captured the world’s attention.

This Christmas, Tressa Ohler was looking forward to skyping with her son Austin Kropp, a seaman in the navy.

“This was the first time we had been away from each other for so long,” she said.

Austin’s her youngest, and the last to leave home. He’s been stationed in Japan for the last year, and mom didn’t expect to see him for two more years.

That changed Sunday at a Sacramento Kings game when Austin popped out of a giant box during the first quarter. His sister couldn’t believe it and his mom was beyond words, saying it was one of the best moments of her life.

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“It was like I gave birth to him all over again,” she said.

Austin’s pretty thrilled to be home too.

“I was just kind of thinking and watching these videos, next thing you know a video comes up with a compilation of military homecomings — and I said ‘maybe I should do something like this,’” said Kropp.

He began to plan, without anyone knowing — even taking out a loan to pay for his flight home and to buy his sister and mom tickets to the Kings game. Then he called the team for help coming up with a special surprise.

“I’ve been a Kings fan all my life so I was like, ‘why don’t I call them up and see if they have anything going on?’… A surprise package! Yah,” he said.

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The package he hid in was so real, his sister Shelby was sure she’d been picked for a jersey giveaway.

“It was crazy enough being up there winning something,” said Shelby Harrom.

But they got the best gift of all…

“The best Christmas present that a mother could ever have,” said Ohler.

Meanwhile, Austin can’t stop replaying mom’s reaction on T.V. A lifetime of laughter for the whole family, and a reunion mom will forever cherish.

“I love you,” mom said.