This is a story for everyone who works hard over the holidays. But it's also for their families.  

Because by now, I'm guessing you might have seen the story about the amazing Christmas gift that a Delta Air Lines flight attendant received from her father.

It's a wonderful, heartwarming story--but it turns out, there's also an unsung hero in the whole episode.

And people are only beginning now to recognize what she did, thanks largely to the efforts of the Delta flight attendant herself.

New Orleans to Detroit to Fort Myers to Detroit...

First, here's a recap in case you missed this. The story stars Pierce Vaughn, a first-year flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, and her father, Hal Vaughn. 

As anyone who has ever started a job where seniority is the rule will understand, Pierce wound up having to work over Christmas this year--six flights that would take her all over the United States.

It was set to be her first Christmas ever away from home and alone. But the 25-year-old flight attendant's father wanted to make sure that didn't happen. So, he booked tickets on all of her six flights. 

Even if his daughter had to work, he wanted to be sure he'd be physically near her on the big holiday. Their joint itinerary went like this:

  • December 23: New Orleans to Detroit, then to Fort Myers, Florida, then back to Detroit.
  • December 24: Detroit to Hartford, followed by a layover during which the Vaughn dad and daughter spent Christmas Eve at a casino in Springfield, Mass. The elder Vaughn lost $200; his daughter walked out with an extra $100.
  • December 25: Hartford to Atlanta, followed by Atlanta to New Orleans, where they parted ways on the 26th.

A viral Christmas post

Now, flying isn't that terrible, and as an immediate family member of his daughter, Hal Vaughn was able to fly standby for free on all six flights. He even scored a first class seat on at least one leg. However, there is some physical hardship involved here.

Hal Vaughn, 65, is still recovering from a broken neck and some other injuries he suffered in a fall off a ladder while he was trimming trees last June. ("A stupid accident, he told the New York Times afterward.) 

It wasn't until last month that he was able to walk again without the aid of a cane.

The whole thing went viral, after a fellow passenger sitting next to Hal Vaughn on one leg of the journey learned their story and posted a couple of photos to Facebook. As of today it has almost 200,000 reactions, 39,000 shares, and more than 200 comments. (Included at the end of this article.)

People are heaping praise on Hal Vaughn for making the effort and showing his love for his daughter. Rightly so, of course. 

The unsung hero

But it seems there's also an unsung hero here, whom almost everyone forgot about -- someone Pierce Vaughn made clear to single out for praise when she was interviewed about all of this for the Times.

That person: her mother, who stayed behind on Christmas so that Hal and Piece could be together. It marked the only time during all the years that her parents have been married and even known each other that they'd been apart on Christmas.

They reunited on December 26 in New Orleans, where she drove with Hal Vaughn back to their home near Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 

"Christmas is obviously huge for us," Pierce Vaughn told the New York Times. "For my mom to sacrifice that for him to be with me was indescribable."