All Annika and Sierra Rivera wanted for Christmas this year was to spend the holidays with their dad, Navy Petty Officer First Class Jeremy Alexander.
Each of the last four years, Alexander -- who serves on board Navy submarines -- has been out to sea during Christmas, and unable to be with his kids.
This year, he was determined to end that streak.
"I was definitely focused on making this happen this time," said Alexander. "I felt sad that I hadn't been there for the last few."
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About two months ago, he found out he'd been given leave for Christmas. But rather than tell the girls right away, he decided he'd surprise them instead.
He enlisted the help of his daughters' mother Andrea Rivera to pull it off. Both say it was agonizing keeping a secret like that from their kids.
"It felt like it was forever away," said Alexander.
"I almost blew it a few times," said Rivera. "It's hard to keep a secret for so long."
Thursday morning, Alexander left San Diego, where he's currently stationed, and made the more than 1,300 mile trek to Cleburne. He went straight to Cooke Elementary, where his daughters go to school.
While the girls were enjoying a holiday party with their classmates, the school's principal snuck Alexander in through a side entrance -- then carefully led him down the hallways to the cafeteria where he wouldn't be seen.
"I'm getting butterflies," said Alexander, as he waited in the wings. "It's like a first game or something right now."
Finally, it was go time.
He had only taken a few steps into the cafeteria, when a shrill "Dad!" rang out through the room.
Sobbing, Annika jumped into his arms. Sierra quickly followed behind, grabbing onto his leg.
"I was surprised," said Annika, who is 8-years-old. "I was happy. And it was awkward because I didn't know he was gonna be here."
"I was really surprised," said Sierra, who is 5-years-old. "I didn't know either."
It was just the reaction Alexander was looking for.
"It was just a whole slew of emotions," said Alexander. "I was wanting to cry, I was wanting to be happy, I was wanting to yell out because I was so excited to be with them."
Alexander will be in town for a week before he heads back to California. When asked what he plans to do while he's here, he simply said "whatever my daughters want."