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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (PIX11) — For an Alabama teen, high school graduation would miss a very important person — or so he thought.

Steven Turner Jr. had accepted the fact that his mother — deployed for nine months to Guantanamo Bay — wouldn’t see him walk across the stage at Paul W. Bryant High School, reports. She told her family she just couldn’t get home for the Saturday morning ceremony.

But when his time came to receive his diploma, Turner’s mom was the one holding that coveted piece of paper.

“It means, like, the whole world,” he said of the surprise. “I thought she wasn’t gonna make it.”

The pair embraced, crying and laughing with glee, in an emotional reunion caught on camera. Turner’s mom planned the surprise with her son’s school district.

“All he could say was, ‘Thank you, mama. Thank you. I love you,” Vera Turner said.