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“I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” a World War II song sung from a soldier’s perspective, is always one of the more bittersweet yuletide hits. After all, the song ends with the pessimistic words, “If only in my dreams.”

But on Saturday night in Kleinhans Music Hall, a soldier’s dreams came true.

Hardly had the listeners settled into their seats, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra played the final notes of “A Christmas Overture,” when guest conductor Ron Spigelman turned and said he had a special package that had come a very long way, and he asked Mary Beth Bauman-Moyer to come to the stage. He explained that attending Holiday Pops is a longtime tradition for her and her family.

“The last few years, something has been missing,” he said.

But not for long.

“Where is the package?” Spigelman asked, looking around.

That’s when Army Sgt. Katie Bauman walked on stage, hugging her mother as the audience broke out in thunderous applause.

Bauman, a graudate of Canisius College, was raised in the Town of Tonawanda and Amherst, A flight medic, she was stationed abroad for the last four years and recently returned from Afghanistan. She is now stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Bauman thanked the BPO, and her family.

“I want to thank my family who supported me through the whole deployment,” she said.

“But mostly, keep in mind, there is still a war going on,” she said. “There are thousands of soldiers outside the United States. Keep them in your prayers and thoughts.”

Bauman and her mother walked to their seats, where family members hugged her. They sat down, and Bauman-Moyer lay her head on her daughter’s shoulder, her Christmas wish come true.

“Through the years, we all will be together, if the fates allow,” runs a line from another sweetly melancholy Christmas song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Bauman began dreaming of her Christmas homecoming a month ago, when she contacted the BPO and explained her situation. She told of how her family, for years, had attended Holiday Pops, and of how she hoped to surprise her relatives by joining them for this concert.

The Philharmonic, as a goodwill gesture, provided free tickets and helped set the stage for the adventure.

The visit was plotted meticulously to be a surprise to the family, with the exception of one family member, a sister-in-law, who assisted in the plans.

The soldier’s insistence on secrecy was such that she declined all pre-concert publicity and pleaded with the Philharmonic not even to release her name beforehand, lest details get out and the surprise be spoiled.

“She was excited to try to surprise her mom,” said Susan Schwartz, the BPO’s director of marketing and communications. “It’s been such a family tradition.”

email: mkunz@buffnews.com and bobrien@buffnews.com