Lifestyle & Human Interest

Soldier Dad Deployed Almost Entire Year, Age 9 Son Breaks Down in Tears at His Surprise Return


For the better part of a year, the Cesternino family had been living apart from their husband and father Staff Sgt. Rob Cesternino, who left in May of 2018 to serve with the Tennessee National Guard in Jordan and southern Syria.

Cesternino, from Lebanon, Tennessee, is married with six children. The youngest is his 9-year-old son, Luca.

Luca and his siblings knew their father was coming home, but Cesternino arrived four days earlier than his kids thought he would be home, according to WSMV-TV.

Cesternino and his wife decided to surprise Luca during his taekwondo class on March 18, a surprise that left Americans weeping over the sight of their emotional reunion.

Luca was blindfolded and had been told he was going to spar with three different adult instructors.

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While Luca was sparring with the final instructor, Cesternino stepped onto the mat to spar with his son, who was still blindfolded.

The sparring continued for a few moments until Cesternino called Luca by his childhood nickname.

Recognizing his father’s voice, the boy ripped off his blindfold to find his dad standing in front of him. Luca sprinted into his father’s arms and wept, as Cesternino hugged his boy for the first time in almost a year.

“You were such a big boy when I was gone. I’m so proud of you,” Cesternino told Luca.

As the reunion video went viral, the father and son duo appeared on “Fox & Friends” to talk about the emotional moment.

Luca tried to put the moment into words, saying that when he saw his dad’s face, he felt sad and happy all at once.

As for Cesternino, he was pleasantly surprised at just how good his son had gotten at taekwondo.

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“I was afraid that a member of the Tennessee National Guard was going to go down pretty easy,” Cesternino laughed.

When asked if he was surprised by the outpouring of emotion and support over his reunion with Luca, Cesternino said he was not surprised.

“You know, sometimes, unfortunately, we get wrapped around with the negative,” Cesternino said. “But our lives in America truly are so positive every day — it’s exactly what I expected from our country.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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