ROCKLAND (CBS) – Three boys from Rockland got an early Christmas present when their dad surprised them after a long deployment in Africa.

Sgt. Michael Leone surprised his sons, 5-year-old Nathan, 6-year-old Tolan, and 8-year-old Tyler at Esten Elementary School Friday.

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Sgt. Leone dressed up as the school’s bulldog mascot in order to keep his homecoming a secret. He posed for a picture with his boys before removing the head of the costume.

Sgt. Michael Leone surprises his three sons at Esten Elementary School (Image credit Rockland Public Schools)

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“The whole surprise went really well, and the kids didn’t see it coming,” said Leone, a member of the 181st Infantry Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

Esten Principal Marilyn Smith said people were screaming and teachers were crying.

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“The whole event was really well planned and it was a great feeling to be able to surprise my children like that,” Leone said.