PALM COAST, Fla. - What started as a pre-recorded message from Afghanistan during the recent half-time show at the Jacksonville Jaguars game, quickly got a whole lot better.
Petty Officer Bill Cook's family stood proudly on the field as they listened to the videotaped message.
"I would like to say hi to my wife Joy, my youngest daughter Taylor and also say happy birthday to my oldest daughter Kasey," said Cook.
His family thought they couldn't be happier as they watched their dad on the big screen.
"Joy, there are no words that can express my thanks for the sacrifices you have made for our family in the past year," Cook said to his wife. "Have fun tonight, I love you and miss you, and promise I'll be home soon."
But the halftime show wasn't over.
"Now, please welcome his wife, Joy, and the rest of their family," the stadium's announcer said.
He continued, "Now Joy, we know it's been a long, tough time since you've seen your husband, so tonight we've got a special surprise for you. Fans please welcome back, Petty Officer Cook, who has just returned from Afghanistan!"
As Cook sprinted toward his family, his daughters jumped on him, embracing each other while soaking it all in.
Cook had been gone for over a year. It was his third tour of duty, this time helping the effort to rebuild Afghanistan. He wasn't expected to come home for another week and this homecoming exceeded all their expectations.
"I didn't expect my daughter to come running full charge at me, cry her eyes out, the crowd, the response, it was all so very surreal," said Bill Cook.
Bill says he planned the surprise for a month and a half, but when the military first asked his wife to go to the game to view what she thought was just going to be a pre-recorded message she declined, saying it was on a school night and she had to work the next morning. After Bill called her and said it would mean a lot to him for her to go, she agreed, and had no idea what would happen next.
"I would love every military family to go through something like this," said Joy Cook.
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