Imagine the excitement of a soldier returning home for the holidays from Afghanistan to surprise his wife and two girls. Now, consider how he must have felt as he packed his bags to return to the U.S. and learned his California home had been broken into, Christmas presents stolen.
Such was the unfortunate case for Army Cpl. Christopher Petrossian. But what the community did next after learning of the Lodi, Calif., family's loss, totaling about $5,000 worth of items on Dec. 17, is sure to restore your faith in humanity.
The Petrossian family decorates for Christmas after their home was broken into last week. Even though all the gifts they had bought for the holiday were stolen, the girls said the best present was already with them -- their dad. (Image source: KCRA-TV)
When Petrossian's wife, Cheryl, called him last week, terrified about the theft, he said something to comfort her -- he revealed his surprise. He was coming home.
“I told her not to worry about it,” Petrossian told the Lodi News-Sentinel. “I’ll be home tomorrow. It made her feel better knowing I’d be home soon.”
But Petrossian, who has served three tours in Afghanistan, was still disappointed. He had been saving for all the presents they purchased, which were stolen along with the family's couch and other items.
A look at the home, ransacked the day before Christopher Petrossian returned from Afghanistan. (Image source: KCRA-TV)
“I’m used to shopping at Big Lots, and Kmart and thrift stores,” he told the newspaper. “And finally, after a year and a half in Afghanistan and saving up all that money, I was finally able to start buying somewhat decent stuff. And then a day before I’m supposed to come home, someone breaks in and steals all that stuff.”
Word of the family's situation spread and the local police station and residents began donating.
"I think they were able to buy a good, substantial portion of the items they lost," Lodi Police Sgt. Doug Chinn told ABC News. "And we have even more gift cards and electronic items to give to them."
Christopher Petrossian, his wife, Cheryl, and one of their daughters. (Image soure: KCRA-TV)
Watch KCRA-TV's report about the theft and the community's response:
But for Cheryl and the couple's two girls under 10 years old, their best Christmas gift already came home on Dec. 18.
"Daddy's home!" one of the daughters told KCRA.