This just warms our hearts.

By Meghan Overdeep
December 07, 2019
Jennifer Streicher-Tilson

Nobody knows the importance of family quite like the members of our armed forces. So when Keaton Tilson, a 19-year-old U.S. Army soldier stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, found out at the last minute that he'd been given four days off over Memorial Day weekend, he immediately called his mom back home in Granite City, Illinois. He planned to fly home to surprise his three younger siblings.

Hoping to get on a 5 a.m. flight with a standby ticket, Tilson spent the night at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. "It looked good at first," Tilson's mom, Jennifer, recalled to CBS News. "There were open seats. Then something happened, and he kept missing flights and missing flights."

The gate attendant told the frustrated teenager that unfortunately, there wasn't much she could do to help. Everything was booked solid.

After a few hours Tilson, who hadn't been home since Christmas, called his mom to prepare her for the possibility that he may not make it after all.

According to CBS News, shortly after Tilson hung up his phone, a man walked over to the 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 stranger, who was later identified as Josh Rainey, told the agent. But Rainey was unable to switch his ticket so close to boarding. Tilson thanked him and told him he'd work something out.

Minutes later, after explaining Tilson's situation to his wife on the phone, Rainey returned and offered to pay for the soldier's $375 ticket. He didn't want the young recruit to miss another minute with his family.

Shocked, Tilson reportedly shook Rainey's hand and repeated, "Thank you! Thank you!" Then he called his mom, "Somebody just bought my ticket!" he exclaimed.

"He was emotional. I could tell he probably could've cried —was trying not to cry," Jennifer told CBS. "Keaton was able to thank the kind man, but I want to personally and publicly thank him as well."

Before taking his seat on the plane, Tilson returned to Rainey to give him a big hug. After chatting briefly, he found out the generous stranger lived nearby. On top of that, they also had a common family friend.

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With that information, Jennifer was able to track Rainey down and thank him properly.

"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."

According to Rainey, Tilson's hug was all the thanks he needed.

"That was worth every penny," he told Jennifer.

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