Gridiron Reunion

The sound of excitement fills the aircraft hangar early on a bright Saturday morning. Anxious families have been awake for some time, preparing … waiting.

Anticipation of the reunions soon to come overwhelm the crowd as an aircraft’s tires hit the ground. The deployed Airmen, fathers, mothers, wives and husbands, have been gone for months…and they’re finally home.


But for two families, the day is just beginning. Just moments after leaving the plane and seeing each other for the first time, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Martell and his wife, Julia, along with U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Love and his wife, Kendall, jump in their car and hit the road.

More than two hours later they arrive at The International School of Brussels, where their sons are participating in a football game and have no idea their fathers have returned from deployment.


Martell and Love had dressed up in the opponent’s uniforms. The sons approached the center of the field for a sportsmanship handshake, not knowing what surprise was in store.

The Airmen removed their helmets, and after a moment of suspended belief, their sons charged forward into their father’s arms. Sweat mingled with tears as wrapped hands gripped jerseys with the fierceness of a desperate son.


The announcers fell quiet. The crowd’s breath caught.

And then, as fathers and sons embraced for the first time after five months of missed games and empty chairs at the table, a wave of uncontrolled cheering swept through the crowd. No one thought about the score of the game, or what was for dinner, or how the seats were uncomfortable. It was about that moment of reunion, of pure emotion, of reconnection.

It was about homecomings and families. It was about fathers and sons, separated by oceans and deserts, reuinited on a football field. It was about the bond that cannot be broken.

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