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Soldier returns in time to surprise best friend at ASU graduation

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U.S. Army Spc. Tina Halvorsen walks with her best friend, Allen Montenegro, to his graduation ceremony from ASU. (Source: CBS 5 News) U.S. Army Spc. Tina Halvorsen walks with her best friend, Allen Montenegro, to his graduation ceremony from ASU. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Halvorsen and Montenegro have been best friends since the second grade. (Source: CBS 5 News) Halvorsen and Montenegro have been best friends since the second grade. (Source: CBS 5 News)
TEMPE, AZ (CBS5) -
For the brave men and women serving overseas, the holidays can be a very difficult time. But one lucky soldier got to come home early and decided to give her best friend a surprise he'll never forget. 

"My dad served in the Vietnam War," said U.S. Army Spc. Tina Halvorsen. "I wanted to follow in his footsteps and I actually did."

Halvorsen, who grew up in Peoria, has been serving in the Army for two years and was deployed in Afghanistan for the past four months. 

"I missed a couple of birthdays," Halvorsen said. "I missed my best friend's birthday. It was in September."

She also thought she'd miss Allen Montenegro's graduation, but she got called home early. 

"He thinks I'm going to be here Friday so I am surprising him today," Halvorsen said Wednesday.

She said Montenegro has been working toward a degree for the past 12 years, all while also serving his country in the U.S. Coast Guard. 

"He has been my best friend since the second grade, and we have been through so much," Halvorsen said.

"It's a lot for me today," Montenegro told CBS 5 News while he waited to attend his graduation ceremony at Arizona State University.

Thinking Halvorsen was thousands of miles away, the moment appeared bittersweet for Montenegro. 

"Not having her here, I feel like a part of me is missing," he said.

But then, she surprised him as news cameras were rolling. Their hug lasted minutes, but for the two good friends, it couldn't possibly be long enough. 

Arm in arm, Halvorsen walked Montenegro to the arena and heard his name announced in person.

"I'm amazed, I'm joyful, I'm tearful, everything I could imagine," Halvorsen said. 

"I'm excited, I'm ready to graduate and then go party because I have my best friend here," Montenegro said.

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