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Subscriber Exclusive: A holiday homecoming

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Travis Bartlett, a petty officer second class in the U.S. Navy, reunites with his 10-year-old daughter, Rhondalynn, and 2-year-old daughter, Gladys, at Perkins in Red Wing on Wednesday night after more than four months apart. Stephanie, the girls' mom, knew her husband was coming home from Afghanistan that night and helped plan the surprise for her daughters.2 / 2

Many people wait until Christmas Day to open neatly wrapped gifts that have been stored beneath an illuminated tree for the past several weeks, but a couple of local children got one of their presents early this year -- and it definitely wasn't wrapped.

As 10-year-old Rhondalynn Bartlett and her 2-year-old sister, Gladys, enjoyed a meal with their family at Perkins in Red Wing earlier this week, their dad, Travis, sauntered into the restaurant and over to their table.

Travis had been serving overseas in Afghanistan since the beginning of August, so it's no wonder he didn't make it all the way to the table before Rhondalynn had rushed into his arms.

"It's just such a true Christmas gift," Perkins assistant general manager Stephen King said after watching the Bartletts reunite. "You see so much of it on TV and in the news and it's just extremely cool to be part of it."

To read the complete story, pick up the Dec. 22-23 edition of the Republican Eagle.