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Soldier Returns Home for Memorial Day After Waiting in Airport for Two Days Thanks to Generosity of Stranger

( [email protected] ) May 31, 2017 10:19 AM EDT
An Illinois soldier who waited in an airport for two days hoping to return home for Memorial Day weekend was able to catch a flight thanks to the generosity of a stranger.
Keaton Tilson, 19, poses with his family this Memorial Day weekend after he says a kind stranger paid for his plane ticket home. JENNIFER TILSON

1 John 3:17: "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?"

An Illinois soldier who waited in an airport for two days hoping to return home for Memorial Day weekend was able to catch a flight thanks to the generosity of a stranger.

Keaton Tilson, 19, a U.S. Army mechanic stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, had not been home since Christmas. Thus, he was elated when he was given permission on Thursday to go home to Granite City, Ill., for the Memorial Day weekend, Fox 2 Now reported.

However, after buying a standby ticket at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, hoping to get a last-minute seat on a flight, the teenager was forced to wait at the airport for two days.

"It looked good at first," Tilson's mother, Jennifer, told CBS News. "There were open seats. Then something happened, and he kept missing flights and missing flights."

Determined to travel home, the teenager, who has three younger siblings, asked a gate agent if he had any other options. While she did everything she could to help, she told the soldier, "It doesn't look good."

A few hours later, Tilson called his mother to let her know that he may not make it home.

"I had to keep quiet because he was surprising his siblings," Jennifer said. "I didn't want to tell them in case he didn't come."

Shortly after he got off the phone, a stranger walked up to the ticket counter and asked if he could give Tilson his ticket for a flight boarding in 10 minutes.

"I'll go on a later flight," the kind stranger, who was later identified as Josh Rainey, told the agent.

After being told he could not switch tickets right before boarding, Rainey called his wife, returned to the gate, and bought the soldier a $375 ticket home.

"He missed a couple of flights because they were full," Jennifer recalled. "He called back a few minutes later all choked up and said, 'Somebody just bought my ticket.'"

Later on the plane, the soldier hugged Rainey, thanking him for his generous gift.

Rainey told reporters the hug was the best payment he could've received.

"I didn't go over there thinking I was going to buy a ticket, but it didn't look like he just wanted to go home, it looked like it was for a reason," Rainey recalled. "He shook my hand and walked away and then came back and asked if he could give me a hug. Getting a hug from him was the most payment I could've gotten.

"This is so much more about him," Rainey added. "He has chosen to give up at least the next four years of his life. He got the week off. Instead of choosing to travel or see another country, he had to get home to his family."

Thanks to Rainey's generosity, Tilson returned home just in time for Memorial Day weekend. His mother captured the emotional moment when he surprised his younger siblings on camera.

Eventually, Jennifer was able to track Rainey down and formally thank him.

"I told him how grateful we were," Jennifer said. "He just knew it was the right thing to do. His dad was in the military for 30 years."

Tags : Memorial Day, Memorial Day 2017, Military, soldier, generosity, generous