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

Watching military reunions have us weeping and smiling every single time, and this one that recently took place in Alabama makes it to our list of 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
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It happened before the October football game at Helena High School, where the freshman plays defensive back.

A few days before the event, Major Grooms Jr. was fulfilling his duties half a world away. 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.

So, Major Grooms Jr. made the long trip from Kuwait to Alabama, arriving home in the early hours. He snuck into his house and hid his bags and himself until the kids went to school in the morning.

Football players and referees gathered in the middle of a footbal field
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Then, he began executing his plan. While young Fred was in class, Major Grooms Jr. donned a football official’s uniform. The excited dad arrived at the high school around 5 p.m. during game day and hid in a small room in 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 had no idea that his father was disguised as one of the referees!

The head referee gathered the players at the 50-yard line to conduct the coin toss. 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
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Although he was confused by the weird instructions, Fred followed suit.

“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 of the officiating crew but failed to recognize his dad, who was still wearing his face mask. Major Grooms Jr. pulled it off to reveal himself, and the pair shook hands and went in for a tight and lengthy 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
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“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 be home for about 30 days. Afterward, he will head off 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.

Watch the heartwarming reunion of father-and-son in the video below.

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