Travel during the holidays can be a hassle, especially if your mode of transportation includes hopping onto a plane to get home. While the airlines can’t guarantee that their planes will be on time, there’s one thing you can be sure of – lots of down time at the airport! Whether you’re checking-in your bags, trying to get through security, or you just want to grab a bottle of water on the other side, there’s always a long queue and even longer wait times in store for you.

But for one young soldier, his wait to get home was taking much longer than usual. Keaton Tilson, who had enlisted in the Army 8 months earlier, just wanted to go home to see his family for the Memorial Day weekend. He hadn’t seen them since Christmas, but sadly after spending 2 days at the airport, it didn’t look like he’d make it home anytime soon. That’s when a stranger stepped in with an offer he couldn’t refuse!

Keaton, who was stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, was brand new to the Army, which meant that he would have to get approval to go on leave. At the very last minute, on the Thursday evening before Memorial Day, he got the green light to fly to St. Louis for a 4-day weekend.

The Army mechanic rushed to the Dallas-Fort Worth international airport and spent the night there, desperately hoping to get on a 5AM flight with a standby ticket. At first things looked good, but those empty seats kept filling up right before the flight, and none were earmarked with his name.

Two days and lots of standby flights later, Keaton found himself no closer to getting home. While he was trying to brainstorm other options with the gate agent, Josh Rainey overheard the conversation and offered Keaton his own ticket for a flight that was leaving in 10 minutes. Unfortunately, that fabulous gesture found itself in a no-fly zone.

The airline agent informed the pair that the transfer wasn’t allowed, especially so close to the departure time. Keaton thanked Josh and despondently walked away, but Josh had a surprise in store for him. After calling his wife for advice, Josh decided to purchase the $341 ticket for the soldier. But, instead of feeling like his wallet was a little bit emptier, he thought it was the best investment he could ever make!

Josh told Fox 2 News:

“He walked away and came back and asked if he could hug me, and I think we both had to fight back the tears after that. It was pennies, pennies on the dollar compared to what I got back from that hug.”
After a brief chat before the flight, Keaton and Josh discovered they had a mutual family friend. After mom Jennifer found out how her son managed to finally get home, she used that information to track down Josh and publicly thank the stranger.

Keaton said that the experience taught him that soldiers are still very much appreciated. But, that appreciation is certainly a two-way street:

“I’m very appreciative because if it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. Honestly I feel like I would still be at the airport because it’s Memorial Day weekend.”
Josh explained that the interaction touched him in a personal way, because his own father had served in the armed forces for 30 years. Josh’s actions show that anyone can be of service service to others, no matter what your occupation. All it takes is having a heart of gold!

Watch this video to see two American heroes in action.



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