Working as an airman in the U.S. Air Force presumably means that Michael Ciuffoletti doesn’t get to see his family as often as he may like. So, as he walks towards his home one Christmas he cannot conceive their reaction. However, when he shows his face, tears immediately start to flow.
Ciuffoletti is a member of the 90th Security Forces Squadron, which is based at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base near Cheyenne, Wyoming. The facility is one of three strategic-missile bases throughout the United States. It is also home to the 90th Missile Wing, which operates the country’s 150 LGM-30G Minuteman III weapons.
Given that they’re in charge of intercontinental ballistic missiles, staff at the 90th Missile Wing are on full alert at all times. In fact, they operate around the clock, 365 days a year. In order to carry out its mission, the squadron employees approximately 3,000 military personnel and 660 civilian workers. And it consists of a wing staff and five Operations Groups, including the Security Forces Group, where Ciuffoletti works.
Over the years, Ciuffoletti has shared some snapshots of his life in the military on social media. These include a photograph of him in action, which he posted to Facebook in October 2018. The snap shows the U.S. airman dressed in camouflage overalls and a cap as he smiles cheerfully towards the camera.
The photograph attracted a lot of attention from Ciuffoletti’s Facebook following. Not only did the proud snap receive 74 reactions to date, but it also gained a number of glowing comments which praised Ciuffoletti for his work in the military. And needless to say, they still made for heartwarming reading.
One such comment paid compliment to Ciuffoletti, suggesting, “You look like you’re in an Air Force commercial,” while another person simply said, “Thank you.” Elsewhere, a comment, seemingly from one of the soldier’s in-laws read, “Looking great dear son-in-love. Can’t wait till [you’re] home.”
Ciuffoletti’s 90th Security Forces Squadron is charged with protecting the mission of the 90th Missile Wing. This includes carrying out policing and security duties, such as guarding weapons and controlling who has access to the missile field. As such, the squadron is on duty 24/7 to ensure the safety of the base is uncompromised at all times.
Most of the 90th Security Forces Group is based at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. However, it also maintains a combat-ready group which is sent on missions worldwide to support various wartime and peacetime tasks. And Ciuffoletti himself has been deployed on at least one occasion, which he documented on Facebook in 2018.
Ciuffoletti knows all too well what it’s like to be separated from his family members for work. As part of their jobs, service personnel sacrifice time with their loved ones in order to serve. And while this is an unavoidable aspect of their duties, being away from home can be difficult for all involved.
Being deployed often means that military personnel have to miss out on family milestones. These may include birthdays, engagements, weddings and births. And one of the hardest times of the year for servicemen and women must surely be Christmas time.
Given all that they sacrifice, the homecoming of anyone who works in the military is special. And Ciuffoletti had a particularly memorable reunion with his loved ones in December 2015, when he returned home at Christmas. Furthermore, in order to mark the occasion, he later uploaded a video of his arrival on YouTube.
In the heartwarming clip, we see Ciuffoletti in his military uniform and beret. However, his camouflage clothing is at odds with his environment, as he makes his way down a suburban street. And from the twinkling lights and festive figurines that adorn the nearby houses, it’s clear to see that the festive season is in full swing.
As Ciuffoletti approaches a driveway, he glances behind him and flashes a smile towards the camera which is following hot on his heels. The serviceman seems buoyant and appears to walk with a slight bounce in his step; no doubt a symptom of his joy at being back home for the holidays.
Continuing intently towards one certain house, Ciuffoletti appears to fidget nervously with his beret. However, with a quick shake of his shoulders, he returns to his purposeful strides. He then turns onto a cobbled pathway which is illuminated by two snaking lines of candle lights that guide him towards a front door.
But before he arrives at the front step, Ciuffoletti passes two large Christmas decorations. They depict a toy solider and snowman, respectively. They appear to be guarding the house over the holidays and serve to welcome the airman home after what may have been a long stint away with the military.
As Ciuffoletti nears the front door, he passes yet more festive flounces, this time in the form of a well-manicured bush which has been adorned with fairy lights. There’s also a sparkling tree that sports a series of illuminated baubles dangling from its bare, winter branches. Whoever’s home this is, they clearly care about Christmas.
After ascending a small set of stairs, Ciuffoletti finally arrives at a glass front door. He is first spotted by a little boy, who peers out at him from within. Without knocking, the solider pulls the door open and confidently steps inside. And from there, he makes his way towards the merry murmur of people coming from a certain location in the house.
We then see that the festive decorations that we saw outside the house are continued with some flourish within. There are multiple Christmas trees dotted around the interior of the property, and each of them is bedazzled with dozens of lights. Elsewhere, a twinkling garland winds its way up a sweeping staircase.
Ciuffoletti pays little attention to the festive festooning of the house he’s entered, however. Instead, he continues hurriedly on his way, only looking behind him once to beckon the person filming him with his hand. He then makes his way past a large dining table and turns a corner where he arrives in a kitchen.
In there, Ciuffoletti finds a group of people who seem to be talking to one another. But their conversation is interrupted when the man closest to the door spots Ciuffoletti approaching. His reaction to the soldier is, “Uh, oh!” And as other people in the room realize Ciuffoletti has joined them they erupt into screams.
The reactions in the room varies. When a woman stood on the other side of a kitchen island from Ciuffoletti spots the serviceman, she covers her gaping mouth with her hands. Meanwhile, another lady on his left drops her jaw in disbelief and exclaims, “Oh my God!” A third female, to the far left of the shot, immediately bursts into tears and covers her crying face with her hand.
While the response to Ciuffoletti’s return was clearly mixed, what united his family members was their clear joy. The collective shrieks and cries of “oh my God” continue for a good few seconds, as the soldier goes to comfort the young lady who is crying. As he does so, other relatives rush over to greet him, and they are joined by the family dog.
Finally, Ciuffoletti embraces a woman, who – judging from her reaction to his return – appears to be his mom. As they reconnect, someone shouts into the garden telling another person to “get in here.” That individual rushes inside and shakes his head in disbelief as he notices Ciuffoletti standing there.
Wiping tears from his eyes, that man – seemingly Ciuffoletti’s dad – makes his way towards the airman. They share a tender moment, hugging one another in silence as the hysteria continues around them. There’s lots of sobbing and shrieking until the woman who appears to be Ciuffoletti’s mom seemingly calls him an “a**hole” before starting to laugh.
The woman’s response to her son may have seemed surprising. However, the reason for her cursing becomes clear as it’s confirmed that she and most of her relatives had no idea that Ciuffoletti would turn up for Christmas. Instead, the serviceman chose to surprise his family members by arriving home unexpectedly.
Once Ciuffoletti’s mom pulls herself together, she turns to the person filming the reunion and exclaims, “Oh Clarke! Clarke, come here. Oh my God, the best friend ever.” After this, the family discusses which of them knew about Ciuffoletti’s surprise, as one man turns to the soldier and jokes, “You just wanted some jambalaya.”
At this point, it’s clear to see that Ciuffoletti is overcome with emotion as he wipes a tear from his eye. But before the soldier has time to break, yet another relative makes his way towards him. He tells him, “We were just talking about you. I wanted to find out if you [were] on the button,” a joke no doubt in reference to Ciuffoletti’s work with ballistic missiles.
On that jovial note, the video of Ciuffoletti’s homecoming comes to an end. However, he later decided to share the joyous occasion with the wider world when he posted the clip on YouTube on Christmas Eve 2015. And the footage has amassed more than eight million views since then.
Naturally, the video attracted a steady audience since going live in 2015. And it has also received a number of comments from people who were clearly moved by Ciuffoletti’s Christmas reunion with his loved ones. Among them, one such message simply read, “That’s family. That’s love.”
Another commenter was impressed by the bond between Ciuffoletti’s loved ones. They wrote, “That is a real, true, loving family. You can see it not only in their reactions but in just looking at them… Sweet people. To the airman, thank you for your service, sir, and God bless you and your sweet family.”
Elsewhere, another person could empathize with how Ciuffoletti’s must have felt when he walked through his family’s door. They wrote, “I think for non-military families it is hard to put this into context. When your loved one is deployed, you think about them constantly. You think about them being safe and you dream about the day you can wrap your arms around that person again to know that they are home safe.”
The comment continued, “When they surprise you, the emotion is impossible to describe. Simply impossible. You have never experienced excitement and exhilaration like that! It’s also incredible to think that even though they are super focused on their mission and doing it safely – not only for them but for the brothers and sister in the platoon – they can still plan to surprise you to make your heart race like that!”
Confronted with all these positive messages, the popularity of his video took Ciuffoletti by surprise. Around a year after he posted the clip to YouTube it had already received 100,000 views. Back then he wrote, “Thank you, everyone, and for all the kind comments as well. [I] never expected this to be viewed much, but thank you again.”
However, not all of the attention Ciuffoletti’s video received was positive. In particular, some people expressed their concern that his family’s dogs had appeared to have gone ignored by their owners as they tried to get involved in the reunion. However, the soldier later returned to YouTube to assure people that his pets were fine.
One of the more light-hearted comments that referenced Ciuffoletti’s family’s pet pooches read, “The dog’s like, ‘Hello, I missed you too.’” Another person asked, “Did anyone else see the dog try to get in on the action?” But to that question, someone else said, “I know and he kept getting pushed aside.”
However, Ciuffoletti quickly reassured viewers that he hadn’t dismissed his doggies with any cruel intentions. He said, “I notice a lot of comments about the dogs, do not worry furry warriors! Those dogs get more love than you can possibly imagine.” What’s more, he revealed he had purposely not responded to their advances upon his arrival.
Ciuffoletti explained, “The Golden Retriever was going through training at the time and had to learn to stop jumping on people when they first arrive. So, we were training it by ignoring it when she was looking for attention off the start. Once she eventually calmed down, she got smothered with hugs and kisses.”
From his lengthy response to the concerns about the dogs, it was clear that Ciuffoletti cared for them deeply. He continued, “The other dog, our Golden Doodle, as you can see, was well trained to not go jumping in. I actually didn’t notice her with all the commotion and felt horrible afterwards not seeing her…”
However, Ciuffoletti eventually caught up with his beloved Golden Doodle. He wrote, “… Rest assured she was loved upon as well once all the commotion settled and I saw her. These dogs are our life and are spoiled beyond words. How could we ever forget our furry companions? I hope this can help those dog lovers rest a bit easier.”
So with animal welfare concerns addressed, visitors to Ciuffoletti’s YouTube channel were once again free to watch his homecoming video with nothing but glee. The clip reminds us of how much members of our military sacrifice in order to defend our nation. And it also shows how special time with our loved ones really is, and why we should never take it for granted.