CHICAGO (CBS) – On the Far South Side, a Christmas wish came true on Friday.

The 6-year-old daughter of a Chicago soldier deployed in Afghanistan had been asking Santa to bring her daddy home for the holiday.

As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, to her surprise, her wish became reality.

John La Giglia returned to the Beverly neighborhood where he grew up to a hero’s welcome.

“I’ve been all around the world and there’s nothing like the South Side of Chicago,” he says.

He served one year in Iraq and just wrapped up a second, trying year in Afghanistan, leaving a wife and three young children behind.

His six-year-old daughter, Grace, had been asking Santa to bring dad home for Christmas.

And with a little help from the U.S. Army, Santa did just that. La Giglia surprised his daughter in her Sutherland School classroom.

Hugs abounded, and tears freely flowed.

“I was very happy,” Grace says.

La Giglia received a rousing salute from Sutherland students.

The entire family basked in a holiday reunion.

“I’ve been shaking all day. It’s the best Christmas present ever,” La Giglia’s wife, Mariellyn, says.

La Giglia was able to make phone calls home fairly frequently, but because of the sensitive nature of his duties in Afghanistan, he wasn’t able to Skype. It had been a long time since his wife and kids had seen him, in real time.

His relatives say they’re relieved their constant worry is over. Like all war vets, John says he’s eager to get back to normal life.