One day, a fifth-grade student was enjoying lunch with her friends as usual. But then, out of the blue, somebody she recognized walked right into the cafeteria. And what happened next was caught on camera – and has given many viewers goosebumps.
There’s no doubt that it’s tough having a parent in the military. Deployments are unpredictable at the best of times. For instance, you could find out that your mom or dad needs to head out to a war zone with only a few days’ notice, leaving you with barely any time to say goodbye.
Sometimes, those in the military don’t get to come home for months or even years at a time. And in the worst cases, some people’s parents don’t come back at all. It can be an emotional rollercoaster for those left behind at home, always hoping that their loved ones are doing okay.
But back in 2012, one very special person did make it home safely. And there’s a video on YouTube that shows exactly what happened when he got back. The footage is so heartwarming that it quickly went viral, garnering many more than a million views in total.
The internet is full to the brim with elaborate proposal, “promposal” or reunion videos that seem to get the likes and shares rolling in. But when it comes to clips of soldiers returning home from deployment, there are not many videos as tear-jerking as this one.
The footage begins with a group of people walking through what appears to be a school corridor. One man clutches a bunch of brightly colored flowers and a handful of balloons as he follows a dark-haired woman, presumably a teacher, down the hall.
Then a male voice from the behind the camera begins to explain what is going on. The person holding the camera says, “Hey guys, we’re surprising my sister.” But it’s not immediately clear who is bringing the surprise and why. That is until the girl’s brother explains more.
“Stepdad came home,” he says. And that’s when the viewer realizes that the man carrying the balloons and flowers had been deployed with the military and has only recently returned home to his family. The video’s caption explains that the soldier had been overseas for over a year.
And the reason they are inside the school is to surprise the soldier’s 11-year-old stepdaughter, who, at this point, has absolutely no idea that her stepdad has arrived home safely. So the brother, stepdad and female teacher head straight towards the cafeteria where all the fifth graders are having lunch.
Before they enter the dining hall, the teacher says, “All right, get ready, because when she sees him, she’s gonna freak!” referring to the 11-year-old, who has no idea what’s coming. As they walk in, the brother excitedly says, “Here we go!”
But when the stepdad walks into the cafeteria, it’s not immediately obvious where his stepdaughter is sitting. A few seconds go by, and still nobody can locate her. The camera pans the room revealing a huge room filled with kids and teachers enjoying their lunch.
“Where’s she at? Where’s she at?” he asks, but no one can see her yet. At this point, people in the room begin to notice the balloons and flowers in the soldier’s hands, surely wondering what on Earth could be going on. But soon all is revealed.
“Are you sure this is fifth grade?” asks the brother, a small hint of doubt in his voice. But then, something happens that confirms that they are indeed in exactly the right place. Out of nowhere, a figure emerges and heads straight towards the soldier.
What happens next is truly heartwarming. The 11-year-old student sprints across the cafeteria towards her stepdad, whom she hasn’t seen in a year. She moves like lightning, running straight into her stepdad’s open arms. The camera continues to film the whole thing.
As the child wraps her arms around her stepdad, he says, “What’s up girl, how are you doing?” But she’s too overwhelmed to speak. She simply clings to her stepdad, burrowing her face in his shoulder. The fifth grader clearly can’t believe what is happening.
The two of them enjoy a warm embrace for a while, until the stepdad asks the girl if she’s crying. In response, she can only nod her head, as the tears keep on streaming down her face. Then the soldier kisses his stepdaughter tenderly on the head.
The reunion is truly emotional to watch, let alone be involved in. That’s why the video did so well online. To date, it has attracted more than 1,700,000 views and more than 4,000 comments. And of course, most of the messages left underneath the footage are positive ones.
“Crying because this is so beautiful,” someone wrote. And people had a lot of nice things to say about the stepdad too. “Looks like a good man. It sure does seem like a little girl loves him no matter what. Thanks for your service, Sir,” wrote another YouTube user.
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the video also struck a chord with all of those people who know what it’s like to have a family member in the military. “I remember when my dad came home from the first Iraq war. I know exactly how she feels,” wrote one empathetic viewer.
“It is such an amazing feeling when your dad returns home from harm’s way,” the fellow army child continued. Whether you are in the same boat as the emotional 11-year-old girl in the video or not, it’s almost impossible to remain dry-eyed watching the amazing moment when she is reunited with her stepdad.