LUMBERTON, North Carolina (WTVD) -- There's nothing like a surprise around the holidays, especially one involving a soldier - and family.
Sgt. Danielle Hammonds wanted to shock her sister, so she spent 11 hours on a plane followed by another 21 hours in a car to pull off the big stunt.
"I managed to get a couple hours of sleep. My motivation on the road was seeing my little sister. If I'm having a bad day, I just think about her and everything is going to be OK," Hammonds said.
Her sister, 12-year-old Carly Hammonds, thought it was a normal school day. At lunchtime, she picked up her tray and began eating with her friends. Just moments later, Danielle Hammonds walked through the cafeteria doors and Carly rushed into her arms.
Sgt. Hammonds rarely gets to spend Christmas with her family. The information technology specialist has been stationed overseas since Carly was a baby. This year, Hammonds was determined to come home for the holidays. It was a surprise Carly describes as "The Best Christmas Ever."
"I was happy," Carly said, sobbing.
Carly's mother, Jalynn says the two are inseparable. Carly developed a love for basketball that was inspired by Danielle's athleticism.
On Wednesday, the two left Carroll Middle School hand-in-hand for a second surprise, stopping by Southeastern Medical Park to see their dad.
"I saw this on TV the other night, a soldier surprised him at a (Notre Dame) basketball game. I thought to myself that what if Danielle did that," their dad laughed.
The Hammond family said they're looking forward to Christmas now that Danielle is home. Next year, Danielle will be stationed at Fort Stewart, in Georgia.
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Soldier comes home to surprise little sister at school