After enlisting in the U.S. Army about eight months ago, one soldier stationed in Fort Worth, Texas had no idea when he was going to be able to go home and see his family again.
So when Keaton Tilson found out that he was going to have four days off for Memorial Day weekend, he knew he had to try and get home even though his trip home was approved the night before. The 19-year-old rushed to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and waited all night on standby hoping to make it on a 5 a.m. flight to Granite City, Illinois.
“It looked good at first,” said Tilson’s mom, Jennifer. “There were open seats. Then something happened, and he kept missing flights and missing flights.” A few hours later, Tilson was still waiting on standby and he called his mom to tell her he didn’t think he’d make it home. “I had to keep quiet because he was surprising his siblings,” Jennifer said. “I didn’t want to tell them in case he didn’t come.”
A stranger, Josh Rainey, noticed Tilson wasn’t having much luck getting on a flight and went up to the agent and offered to switch seats with him. Unfortunately, they couldn’t switch tickets so close to boarding so the kind-hearted man then offered to pay for $350 of the $375 ticket. “He called back a few minutes later all choked up and said, ‘Somebody just bought my ticket,’” said Jennifer. “He was emotional. I could tell he probably could’ve cried — was trying not to cry.”
“I didn’t go over there thinking I was going to buy a ticket, but it didn’t look like he just wanted to go home, it looked like it was for a reason,” said Rainey. “He shook my hand and walked away and then came back and asked if he could give me a hug. Getting a hug from him was the most payment I could’ve gotten… This is so much more about him. He has chosen to give up at least the next four years of his life. He got the week off. Instead of choosing to travel or see another country, he had to get home to his family.”
“I needed to personally and publicly thank him. You don’t hear of that all the time of a complete stranger willing to spend all that money. I told him how grateful we were,” Jennifer said. “He just knew it was the right thing to do. His dad was in the military for 30 years.”
Watch the entire video below to see the awesome moment this soldier sees his family for the first time in months.
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[Featured image: ABC/Jennifer Tilson]