Gridiron Reunion

Returning fathers surprise sons during football game

Story by Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo, 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The sound of excitement fills the aircraft hangar early on a bright Saturday morning. Anxious families have been awake for some time, preparing … waiting.

Anticipation of the reunions soon to come overwhelm the crowd as an aircraft’s tires hit the ground. The deployed Airmen, fathers, mothers, wives and husbands, have been gone for months, and they’re finally home.

But for two families, the day is just beginning. Just moments after leaving the plane and seeing each other for the first time, Master Sgt. Joseph Martell and his wife, Julia, along with Master Sgt. Scott Love and his wife, Kendall, jump in their car and hit the road.

More than two hours later, they arrive at the International School of Brussels, Belgium, where their sons are playing in a football game and have no idea their fathers have returned from deployment.

Master Sgt. Joseph Martell embraces his son, Justin, after surprising him during a football game after returning home early from a deployment.

Master Sgt. Joseph Martell embraces his son, Justin, after surprising him during a football game after returning home early from a deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Glass Gustavo Castillo)

Martell and Love had dressed up in the opponent’s uniforms. The sons approached the center of the field for a sportsmanship handshake, not knowing what surprise was in store.

The Airmen removed their helmets, and after a moment of suspended belief, their sons charged forward into their father’s arms.
“I had no idea it was going to happen, and all of a sudden, he was just there,” said Justin, Martell’s son.

And then, as fathers and sons embraced for the first time after five months of missed games and empty chairs at the table, a wave of uncontrolled cheering swept through the crowd. No one thought about the score of the game. It was about that moment of reunion for the fathers and sons, who were only days before separated by oceans and deserts, now reunited on a football field.

Master Sgts. Joseph Martell, right, and Scott Love await to surprise their son's during a football game while wearing the opposing team's uniforms at the International School of Brussels, Belgium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Glass Gustavo Castillo)

Master Sgts. Joseph Martell, right, and Scott Love await to surprise their son’s during a football game while wearing the opposing team’s uniforms at the International School of Brussels, Belgium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Glass Gustavo Castillo)

3 thoughts on “Gridiron Reunion

  1. Oh, how the tears spurted…right at the moment that recognition crossed Justin’s face. Priceless. Just Priceless. Welcome home to both Mstr. Sgts., so glad you’re back home with your families. Thank you for your service for our country.

  2. What a great moment! The photo your team got in that brief instant that Justin looked up from hugging his father is amazing. What a great story.