Soldier rouses Sleep Medicine Center in Arizona with surprise return

BernieMiller760Bernie Miller was in a meeting with a couple of sales representatives in his office at the Center for Sleep Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. He knew that colleagues might interrupt if something came up needing his attention. Usually, that means a subdued knock followed by someone opening the door and letting him know what was up. But this time, the knock at the door was followed by a louder, more emphatic, knock. Miller had no idea what was waiting on the other side of the door.

Miller's son, Mason, a soldier returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, surprised his dad at his office. Thankfully, Mason had enlisted the help of a neighbor to orchestrate the surprise homecoming and capture it all on video.

"I opened the door and there he was. I'll tell ya, the tears didn't take too long to start flowing. It was total surprise," Miller tells us. "It was just a flood of emotions coming forth. I don't care if I was crying my eyes out. It was just an occasion that was so overwhelmingly happy that you just couldn't hold back any emotions." In retrospect, he says, "It was one of life's great experiences. No doubt about it."

A neighbor and close family friend, Scott Kelley, conspired with Mason to surprise his family and capture it all on film. Kelley wrote about it on his blog, colorfully titled Man Cave Zen, and posted videos of Mason surprising his dad, and then his sister, and then all of them surprising his mom. "One of the really nice things about it was I got to go with him to the next two stops and actually experience what I had gone through," Bernie tells us. You can see him excitedly filming it all himself, too, even though his neighbor also was capturing it all for posterity.

Once the blog post and videos went up, they started going viral -- by email inside Mayo, and by social media and any other kind of media (the video has more than 60,000 views as we write). That meant more knocks on the door from colleagues telling Miller they'd seen the video and sharing what an impression it had made on them. "It's kind of amazing," he says, adding that the troops deserve the recognition.

Miller, who served in the military back in the '70s, is part of the Veterans Mayo Employee Resource Group and shared photos from his archive and some of his son's photos in a lobby display this past Veteran's Day. He says he's grateful for the support of colleagues, the connection with other staff who have family who've served overseas, and the support of his close-knit group in the Center for Sleep Medicine. "We're all living this together," he says. You can see that in the reaction of Chris Mundell, an administrative assistant in the Sleep Medicine Center, as Mason first enters the office area.

Kelley, in his blog post, describes it as, "One of the absolute best proud, loving dad moments ever caught" on video. No argument here. Give us your reviews with a comment below.