Teen gets ready to shake hands with rival football team. But when helmets come off—he loses it

It’s hard on military families during times of deployment, and that’s why memorable homecomings are an important celebration for these families. A surprise homecoming involving a sergeant and his son, who was about to commence a game of football, turned out to be an emotional one.

In 2013, Justin Martell thought it was going to be a normal football game as he stood on the field of The International School of Brussels in Belgium. Little did he know that it was going to be a day that would be etched in his memory for a long time.

©YouTube Screenshot | 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Before the game commenced, his mother, Julia, went to Spangdahlem Air Force base to pick up his father, U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Joseph Martell, who had just returned home a month early from deployment in Afghanistan.

Once Sergeant Martell touched down and greeted his wife, the two of them quickly jumped into their car and drove to Belgium, which was a two-hour ride away. They were intending to surprise Justin, who had no idea about his father’s homecoming.

©YouTube Screenshot | 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When Sergeant Martell arrived at the school, he dressed up in the opposing side’s uniform and walked towards the center of the field for a sportsmanship handshake.

©YouTube Screenshot | 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
©YouTube Screenshot | 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When Sergeant Martell removed his helmet, however, a stunned Justin suddenly lunged forward to embrace his father, whom he had not seen for five months.

©YouTube Screenshot | 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Justin couldn’t help but cry as he hugged him while the crowd cheered. The emotion expressed on his face was palpable.

The whole heartwarming homecoming was captured on video by 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs and uploaded to YouTube.

©YouTube Screenshot | 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

“I had no idea it was going to happen,” Justin later said of the surprise reunion. “All of a sudden he was just there.”

©YouTube Screenshot | 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

“I thought he was, I don’t even know how many miles (away). The next thing you know he’s standing there and I’m giving him a hug.”

©YouTube Screenshot | 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Watch the touching reunion in the video below:

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