The little boy who froze with emotion when his soldier father returned home had forgotten what he looked like and even asked a stranger ‘Are you my daddy?’, his mother has revealed.
Sean Gavagan’s reaction to his father’s return to Dublin, Ireland after a six-month tour of duty went viral last week as video captured the two-year-old standing stock still and dropping his head in disbelief when his dad appears.
Now the toddler’s mother, Maria Gavagan, 36, says part of the reason little Sean was so upset was because he wasn’t sure which soldier was his father.
She told MailOnline: ‘He’d gone up to a few guys before and said ‘are you my dad?’, it was so cute, the poor little fella.’
Reunited: The Gavagan familed were pictured together moments after the emotional reunion that saw Sean, aged two and wearing the orange coat, freeze when his father appeared
Mystified: Sean, who turns three next month, was dressed in military uniform in proud homage to his father at his parents wedding six months ago
Bog day: Sean Gavagan, who will be three next month, had not seen his father since his wedding day to mother Maria six months ago when they were reunited
Happy couple: Captain Ian Gavagan and wife Maria married six months ago and did not see one another, including their two children, until the heartwarming video reunion last week
‘All these soldiers were coming through and you could see him looking up and going to himself ‘is that him? is that him?’
‘When his dad eventually came through, his big sister just ran crying ‘daddy, daddy’ and I ran after her.
‘It was all too much for poor little Sean – luckily his grandad Martin who is also in the army- was there on hand to comfort him.’
Maria says another reason Sean was overcome was that her husband’s homecoming has been postponed on a number of occasions in the preceding days.
Captain Ian Gavagan, 33, had been serving a six month our of duty with UN peacekeeping forces on the Lebanese/ Syrian border. He had been granted leave in August to return to Ireland to marry Maria before returning to his military duties.
‘We’d been told he was coming on Tuesday and then again on Wednesday and we’d had all these calls back and forward between Ian and the kids.
‘But there were technical hitches with the airplane and it kept getting delayed.
Ian Gavagan’s family, pictured, prepares to meet him as he arrives home after a six-month tour in the Golan Heights, on the Israel-Syria border
His family – including his new wife, Maria – were seen warmly embracing the UN peacekeeper
But little Sean doesn’t join in the hug as he is too overcome with emotion
A man walks over to Sean, pictured, and tries to comfort him as it’s all too much for him
‘So by the time he actually did arrive on Thursday the 5th, we were all a little bit emotional.
‘Sean has seen his dad on internet calls and of course he saw him at the wedding, but I guess it’s different for a very young child like that, they forget easily.’
‘Even after Ian did arrive back, Sean was very shy for a while, children take time to adjust.
‘We went to Ian’s mum’s house for a cup of tea and I made Ian go upstairs and take off his uniform so he looked more normal.
‘Eventually after a while, Sean piped up with ‘dad, you’re home’. It was so funny, it was like it had just dawned on him.’
Unfortunately Sean and Grace’s time with their newly returned was short.
Sean Gavagan’s reaction to his father’s return after a six-month tour of duty went viral last week as video captured the two-year-old standing stock still and dropping his head in disbelief when his dad appears. Pictured: Ian and Maria Gavagan
They spent that evening in their granny’s house, as the newlyweds made up for lost time with a ‘mini moon’ in London, leaving on an early morning flight the following morning Maria who works as a clerical officer in one of Ireland’s largest hospitals, Dublin’s Mater hospital, says the couple missed their return flight on Monday and had to wait until Tuesday for another.
Then Ian left for Benidorm last Friday for his best friend’s stag party, only returning today.
‘They haven’t see that much of him yet,’ says Maria, ‘but he’s on leave for the next five weeks and he will be doing all the school runs, all the meals and generally being a housewife.
‘They’ll love that.’ Her husband is not due to go overseas agin until next year and that is likely to be for a much shorter tour. Already Sean is showing signs of following in his dad’s footsteps.
‘Ian’s own father served in the Lebanon,’ says Maria, ‘so he knows what it’s like to be waiting for daddy to come home.
‘But already Sean is playing with guns and tanks and loving all that. so maybe he’ll be the third generation to go over.’
Sean holds his hands to his face to cover the tears while he is comforted by a man, possibly a colleague of his father
The man convinces little Sean to stop crying and go and see his dad
Captain Gavagan had flown back earlier during his deployment to marry Maria and then headed straight back out to the region
Sean’s heartrending appearance in the video has received thousands of views turning him into something of a celebrity in Ireland where he’s been invited onto an evening chat show with his mum and dad. Although no all the attention has been favourable.
‘They were some online comments about my abandoning Sean by running towards Ian when him coming out,’ says Maria.
‘That’s just nonsense, his granddad was there with him and everything happened do fast.
‘It was a great day and despite the tears, a very happy one. ‘It’s something that we’ll be able to remind Sean about for years to come.’
Captain Gavagan was one of 100 soldiers stationed at Casement Aerodrome military base who returned home last week.
He had flown back earlier during his deployment to marry Maria and then headed straight back out to the region.
The adorable scene starts with his daughter rushing over to him. There are hugs and kisses until the reunited family realises that little Sean is nowhere to be found in the warm embrace.
Maria on her wedding day; and with Ian, who is finally back home in Ireland
Looking back, the family sees Sean where they left him before running – he’s in tears after getting a first glance at his returning dad.
UN peackeepers have been monitoring a 1974 ceasefire between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights.
Hundreds of UN troops withdrew from the Syrian-held side of the Golan to the Israeli-occupied sector in September 2014 after Al Qaeda-linked rebels kidnapped dozens of peacekeepers.
In late August 2014, rebels on the Syrian side including Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front kidnapped more than 40 Fijian UN troops and released them two weeks later.
Israel seized 1,200sq km (460 square miles) of the Golan during the Six-Day War of 1967, then annexed it in 1981.
Some 510sq km of the Golan remain on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line, with the peacekeepers overseeing a buffer zone stretching 70km from Lebanon in the north to Jordan in the south.
Captain Gavagan was one of 100 soldiers stationed at Casement Aerodrome military base (above), southwest of Dublin, in Baldonnel, and had returned home last week