CHAMBERSBURG — When Liam Williams, 4, sat down to have some pizza at Cluggy's Amusement Center for his Saturday birthday celebration, he was only expecting some food, some presents, and a chance to run around and have some fun.
What he didn't know was that his father, Sgt. Brandon Williams of Fayetteville, had returned from a deployment with plans to surprise his son.
At first, Liam didn't know what to say.
Then, he smiled wide.
"Hi Daddy," he said before his father picked up for a big hug.
It had been about nine months since he had been deployed by the United States Marines Corps. He will be home until the end of this month, when he will return as a military chaplain.
Liam's younger sister, Emma, 1, was also able to see her dad.
"I think it was a nice surprise for them," Brandon said, smiling. "It's all for the kids."
The surprise was a joint effort by Brandon, his wife, Renee, and Renee's mother, Shelly Hoffman, to keep other family members in the dark to make sure the children got a big surprise.
Liam's actual birthday was April 16 but they couldn't get everything together for a big party until now and decided to also try to coincide it with Brandon's homecoming.
"It was hard," Shelly said, laughing.
Now that Brandon is home, Liam can get to work on a list he made of activities they can do together. It was something his family encouraged him to do.
"He has done things like ride bikes, make pancakes, go out to eat," said Shelly. "Lately he's also said he wants to go camping and go fishing."
Renee said she is thrilled that Liam didn't guess the "big surprise," but it didn't stop him from asking.
"I told him there might be a big surprise," she said. "He really wanted to know what it was. He asked me if was a plane or a train. It wasn't something quite that big but I think he's pretty happy."