Deployed dad disguises himself as referee to surprise son before his high school football game

We can’t stop smiling and weeping at military reunions, and this one took place in Alabama is now on our favorites.

Despite the demanding nature of his career, Army Major Fred Grooms Jr. made sure he was there at each of his son’s important events.

But when he was deployed to Kuwait for an entire year, he couldn’t make good on his promise, so he arranged a surprise reunion for his son, Fred Grooms III.

Helena High School football players and referees walking on the football field

It happened just before the October football game at Helena High School where the freshman plays defensiveback.

Major Grooms Jr. was performing his duties in the other half of the world a few days before the event. He was supposed to return home in November, but his commander allowed him to leave mid-October so he could make it to his son’s last regular football game of the season.

Major Grooms Jr. traveled from Kuwait to Alabama and arrived home in the wee hours of the morning. He sneaked into his home and concealed his bags and himself until his children went to school the next morning.

Football players and referees gathered in the middle of a footbal field

He then began to execute his plan. While young Fred was in class, Major Grooms Jr. donned a football official’s uniform. The father arrived at the high-school around 5 p.m. on game day and hidden in a small room within the field house.

As the players headed back to the field house before the junior varsity game, Major Grooms Jr. snuck to the sidelines and wore a protective face mask under his official’s cap to cover his face. He made sure to steer clear of the players’ views.

Before 6 o’clock, the players headed toward the middle of the field for what Fred thought was just a routine coin toss. He didn’t know that his father was disguised to be one of the referees.

The head referee brought the players together at the 50-yard mark to conduct the coin flip. Then, he instructs the players to do something unusual: take a good look at the referee’s faces and memorize them.

Football players and referees gathered in the middle of a footbal field

Although Fred was confused at the strange instructions, Fred continued to follow.

“I was kind of weirded out,” the 6’2 player recalled to NBC News. “The fact that they told me to look at every single one of the refs and memorize their face.”

He looked at each member, but failed to recognize his father, who was still wearing his mask. Major Grooms Jr. removed his mask to show himself and the pair hugged for a long and tight hug.

Onlookers applauded, and one of the officials thanked them for “letting us be a part of this.”

A soldier disguised as a referee hugging his football player son as referees and other players looked on

“Watching him walk up unaware was really exciting, but then also kind of nerve-wracking because I hadn’t seen him in almost a year,” Major Grooms Jr. said. “When I left he was three inches shorter than me, and when I came back he was two inches taller than me.”

Major Grooms will stay home for approximately 30 days. After that, he will depart on his final one year deployment before retiring.

“I’ve had a great career in the military, but I look forward to retirement,” he told Rick Karle of WVTM 13.

“Thank you for your service Mr. Grooms and we are glad you are home!” Helena High School’s athletic program wrote on Facebook.

The video below shows the heartwarming reunion between father and son.

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