SURPRISE, Ariz. - A surprise moment in the city of Surprise Friday night during a “STARS” youth sports flag football game.
To the shock of many in the crowd and the kids on the field, the mascot leading the coin toss pulled a trick play.
Staff Sgt. Mike Gunderson removed his mask, revealing to his son, Luke, that he’d been hiding under the furry costume. As soon as the 8-year-old realized what was happening, he fell into his dad’s arms for a tearful hug.
“It’s one of the best days of my life,” Gunderson said.
Mike Gunderson, a member of the Arizona Air National Guard, had been serving in Afghanistan for the last seven months.
Gunderson, his wife and a few members of their church helped plan the game-day surprise.
"He was thinking he was coming Sunday, so to see him hug his dad was great, " said Luke’s mom, Stacia.
The last time Luke saw his dad was when he was being deployed.
"He had a really hard time with me leaving, he wouldn't let go at the airport, so it was really good to be able to surprise him,” Gunderson said.
Luke has two little sisters who got their own surprise earlier in the day as Gunderson arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
The girls thought they were welcoming one of Stacia’s friends but quickly went running for a hug when they saw Sgt. Gunderson walk through the arrival gate.
Gunderson is one of 14 Air National Guardsmen to return to the Valley after a 7-month deployment.