One of the hardest experiences of military service is being separated from your family for long periods of time. When Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old naval soldier from Florida, was deployed to Guam, he was unable to see his mother—for over two years.
“I always felt like with my mom gone, it was piece of me missing and especially as close as me and my mom are,” he told Inside Edition.
So when the opportunity finally came, he knew he had to pay his mother a long-overdue visit.
“I thought, ‘It’s definitely time for me to come home.’ I knew I needed to be there,” Jackson said.
“Me and my mom have a saying that when one needs the other, we are usually there and I knew my mom needed to see me.”
But he didn’t want it to be just a regular reunion.
He wanted it to be a surprise.
“I knew I wanted our reunion to be a special moment, particularly after all this time,” he told the Daily Mail.
To pull it off, he enlisted the perfect accomplice. “I called my aunt, who was more than happy to help.”
Aunt Tonya, his sister’s mother, agreed to secretly pick him up at the airport when he arrived.
But Lee wanted it to be an even bigger surprise and “get her pretty good,” so on the ride over, he came up with a new plan.
As he recalled to Inside Edition, Lee turned to his aunt and asked:
“How big is your trunk?”
“You’re 6’3,” I don’t know if you’re going to fit in my trunk,” the aunt replied.
But Lee, after a long military leave, was unfazed about the discomfort.
“If I sleep in a rack on a ship I can sleep anywhere.”
So he hid in the trunk—and as they pulled up to his mother’s apartment, the plan was in place.
Tonya got out of the car (secretly recording the whole thing on her phone), and asks her sister, Diana, to come help her with the “good stuff” she had in the back.
Diana seemed hesitant about the request, since it was raining, but agreed and went to greet her sister and her boyfriend.
Lee, still hiding, harbored some doubts about his aunt’s acting skills.
“I wasn’t really sure how the plan would go, because my auntie isn’t the most secretive of people,” he told the Daily Mail.
But instead, the plan went perfectly.
Diana opened the trunk—and was shocked and overwhelmed to see her son climb out. She screamed and jumped into his arms.
“My baby!” she said.
“I’m sorry, I had to get you,” her son told her.
“What a great surprise!”
It was a precious moment—and one that was even better than Lee could have imagined.
“I was expecting a few tears but I wasn’t expecting her to jump up and jump in my arms like that,” he told Inside Edition. “It was pretty funny, a little icing on the cake.”
But Lee knew his mother would appreciate the moment, too—it was more than a prank, it was his way of thanking her.
“My mother and I have always been very close, so it was nice to be able to give something back to her, to show my appreciation for everything she’s done for me,” he told the Daily Mail.
“When you’re on deployment, it’s these moments that you hope for when you come back home.”
The reunion didn’t end there! After that, the family went to pick up Lee’s little sisters from day care, where he surprised them too.
For Lee, it was the perfect homecoming.
“It feels amazing to be back with my family again,” he told the Daily Mail. “It makes everything I do seem worth it in the end.”