LAWRENCEVILLE, IL — All Kylie Pickett wanted to do was share the video of her husband, Staff Sergeant Brandon Pickett, originally of Harrison County, surprising his son at the Peewee League football game. Brandon had returned three months early from his deployment to Afghanistan.
The video captured the heartwarming moment when Jayce Pickett, 9, in his Peewee football uniform, realized that the army soldier walking toward him on the football field was his father. The young boy ran crying for joy into his father’s arms.
But when Kylie Pickett decided to upload the video to “WelcomeHomeBlog.com,” the video went unexpectedly viral in a big way.
Within 24 hours of its posting, the website recorded over 3,000 hits, Kylie said. By the next day, the video had been broadcast by The ABC morning news show Good Morning America. It was also shown on Fox News, Inside Edition, and the Yahoo Online News Service.
“It was even picked up for broadcast in the United Kingdom,” exclaimed Ryan Roush, owner of O5P Films and a friend of the Pickett family. Roush made the video as a favor to Kylie and even went to the trouble of editing the video as a professional project, but he never expected it to be such an immediate internet sensation.
“I have never had this kind of experience before. I’ve produced three or four videos before this one and none of them have taken off like this,” Roush said.
This is how it all happened:
SSgt. Pickett was given permission to return three months early from a 12-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.
When he gave his wife the news, they decided to surprise their children with his return. Kylie left their daughter, Jaylie, 6, and son, Jayce, 9, with family members in Lawrenceville while she went to meet her husband at the airport in St. Louis on Saturday, Sept. 13.
Since Jayce had his last home football game the very day that his father was arriving, the couple decided that they would stage the surprise for Jayce at the playing field.
Because of service obligations, Brandon had never had the chance to watch his son play football live. It had always been in videos seen afterward on his computer
Knowing that relatives would like pictures of this reunion, Kylie contacted Roush to capture the moment in pictures. It was Roush who suggested that he shoot a video of the event instead.
“I am adding video services to my profession and I thought this event would be great to add to my portfolio,” Roush said.
Brandon arrived at the football field before Jayce’s team arrived and stayed hidden in the press box until after the playing of the national anthem.
According to Brandon, the plan was to throw a football to Jayce, “but when they announced my name, he just came running and threw himself into my arms.”
The event drew a standing ovation from the parents in the stands, but no one anticipated that the crowd who would eventually see, and applaud, this touching reunion, would number in the millions and be featured on national and international television.
“I just put it on “Welcome Home” because I thought the blog would be a nice place to share the video. But it obviously struck a chord with people,” Kylie Pickett said.
Brandon Pickett is a 2001 graduate of Harrison County High School. He volunteered to join the army a few months after the events of 9-11 and has since spent three tours of duty overseas.
He completed two tours in Iraq in addition to his 9-month tour in Afghanistan. He will spend about two weeks with his family before returning to his active duty post in Texas.
His family lives in Lawrenceville, Ill, where Kylie Pickett can take care of her father and her children. She also has members of her immediate family in the area to help out.
“She is the real hero in all this,” said Brandon. “While I’ve been on active duty, she has been handling everything at home by herself. She spends a lot of her time under a lot of stress, but she handles it all very well.”
In addition to his Illinois family, Brandon has deep roots in Harrison County. His mother and stepdad are Brenda and Stephen Hamilton, his father and stepmom are Allen and Kim Pickett, all of whom are from Harrison County.
He has two brothers and one sister. Matthew Pickett is a Marine stationed at Camp Le Jeune, S.C. His other brother, Michael, and sister, Andrea Baker, both live in Harrison County.
His maternal grandmother is Wanda Lyons and his great-grandmother is Louise Pickett.
Among his grandparents were the late Ray Lyons and Shirley Smiley. Another grandparent to Brandon Picket was the late Gordon Pickett.
Gordon, 72, died a few days after the video was released from injuries he sustained when he lost control of his motor scooter on KY 36. He was being treated for his injuries at the University of Kentucky Medical Center when he passed away on Sept. 19.