Army son surprised mom at a high school pep rally after a two-year deployment 

L.J. Williamson, a former officer with the Atlanta Police Department was honored in January 2020. Williamson believed she was being recognized for her involvement with a local program helping children in need at a pep rallie. 

She was unaware of a bigger surprise.

Williamson was standing on the court while her oldest son, U.S. Army SPc., ran up to her. After a two-year deployment to South Korea, Shakir Aquil ran to the Therrell High School pep rallie to surprise her!


Williamson, 22 years old, saw Aquil and ran into his arms. The two of them shared a long-awaited embrace. Although filled with joy, the officer’s honest first thought was, “Why did he do this to me?”

“I don’t like showing emotion in front of people, and I try my best not to,” she told “Good Morning America.” “As a police officer you’re expected to be stern, and I thought why did he do this in front of all these people?”

It was her first time to hug her son since December 2017, when she returned home after he died.

L.J. Williamson standing in the middle of Therrell High School's basketball court

Williamson said she was “so happy” upon reuniting with Aquil.

After graduating from high school, the soldier was a chef in U.S. Army basic training. He went on to Virginia to continue his training and to Seoul in South Korea.

Williamson admitted that she struggled emotionally when Aquil was first deployed.

“I cried for probably about a month,” she recalled. “This baby that I had when I was a baby — I was just 18 when I had him — we kind of grew up together and I felt like a part of me was displaced with him being so far away.”

U.S. Army Spc. Shakir Aquil

Aquil said his mom is his “best friend” and said he also had a hard time being so far away from her.

“Honestly, it was pretty heartbreaking. I’d see other people with their parents, even in movies, and it was a very sensitive part,” he said. “She made everything amazing in my life. She tries her best.”

When Aquil learned he would get time off before being stationed in Seattle, he decided to give his family a homecoming surprise—something that’s been his lifelong dream.

“I’ve always wanted to do it, even since high school when I was looking into going into the Army and always watched the coming-home videos,” he said. “I’ve been planning this for years.”

Aquil fooled his mom into believing he was returning to Atlanta on January 22. However, the truth was that Aquil was actually arriving a few days before. He then coordinated with Therrell High School officials and one of his mother’s close friends, a fellow school resource officer, to arrange the surprise.

U.S. Army Spc. Shakir Aquil walking into the Therrell High School basketball court

After traveling 19 hours from Seoul to Atlanta, Aquil made his first stop at his little brother’s school to surprise him in class. Then the siblings went to their grandmother’s house and surprised her before making their way to Therrell High School.

Aquil congratulated Williamson on her recognition and the school played it for the first time.

“I’m proud of you,” he said in the clip. “We’ve got one more week.”

It was only a matter of time. The boys’ basketball team ran out to the court, and Aquil trailed behind them.

Aquil stated that he felt nervous prior to the surprise and that the only reason he considered going ahead with it was because he wanted Williamson sooner.

L.J. Williamson and her son U.S. Army Spc. Shakir Aquil hugging

“I didn’t even want to wait for the pep rally. I just wanted to see my mom,” he said.

However, he was pleasantly surprised.

“It took me by surprise almost more than the surprise for her,” said Aquil.

During the 21 days Aquil wasn’t home, the family entertained one another with dances, singing, cooking, and general fun. Williamson was looking forward to trying his delicious cooking, especially his lobster tail.

Watch Aquil’s joyful homecoming surprise for his mother in the video below.

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