LODI, Calif. - Army Cpl. Chris Petrossian was in Afghanistan when his frightened wife called to say robbers stole the thousands of dollars' worth of Christmas gifts he had ordered online and shipped to his Northern California home.
The corporal now on leave from his third tour of duty wanted to surprise his wife and two daughters with gifts like an iPad and digital camera. Thanks to fellow residents of Lodi, he will be able to give his family the Christmas he envisioned while he was away, KCRA-TV in Sacramento reported Sunday.
"After being gone that long, you want to have a good Christmas and good homecoming," said the 27-year-old Petrossian, who returned from a 17-month deployment on Wednesday. "It was all sitting on the desk and they just ripped open all the packages and helped themselves to whatever they wanted, which was everything."
He told the television station that he has been able to replace about three-quarters of the stolen gifts with the community's donations, including money collected by local police and firefighters. The city is about 35 miles south of Sacramento.
"I have lived here a long time, and absolute strangers, complete strangers have come together," he said.
Petrossian got the call Monday about the break-in that left his family's home ransacked. Lodi police are investigating the robbery that claimed an estimated $5,000 worth of merchandise.
Petrossian's wife, Cheryl, told the Lodi News-Sentinel that the break-in made her even more grateful for having her husband home for the holidays.
"I don't know what I would do here, right now, without him," she said.