A 19-year-old U.S. Army soldier was reunited with his family thanks to a good Samaritan who paid for him to travel home.
Keaton Tilson returned to Granite City, Illinois, for the first time since Christmas after Josh Rainey of St. Louis, Missouri, shelled out the $350 for his plane ticket.
“I needed to personally and publicly thank him,” mom Jennifer Tilson said of Rainey. “You don’t hear of that all the time of a complete stranger willing to spend all that money. We needed to find out who he was.
“We are super appreciative that Josh did this so Keaton could come home,” she added. “I know it was short, but it was better than nothing.”
Keaton Tilson is stationed in Fort Worth, Texas.
On May 25, Keaton Tilson received approval to return home for Memorial Day weekend, but because it was such short notice, he was on standby to get on a flight home to Illinois. When a stranger, Josh Rainey, noticed Keaton Tilson wasn’t having much luck with his standby ticket, he bought him a one-way ticket home so the soldier could return home immediately, Jennifer Tilson said.
“He missed a couple of flights because they were full,” she added. “He called back a few minutes later all choked up and said, ‘Somebody just bought my ticket.'”
Josh Rainey, 35, told ABC News that he first walked over to Keaton Tilson to try to trade airline tickets with him, but was informed by staff that Keaton Tilson was not next in line on standby. Rainey said he then paid for a new ticket instead.
“I didn’t go over there thinking I was going to buy a ticket, but it didn’t look like he just wanted to go home, it looked like it was for a reason,” Rainey recalled. “He shook my hand and walked away and then came back and asked if he could give me a hug. Getting a hug from him was the most payment I could’ve gotten.
“This is so much more about him,” Rainey added. “He has chosen to give up at least the next four years of his life. He got the week off. Instead of choosing to travel or see another country, he had to get home to his family.”
Keaton Tilson returned home just in time for Memorial Day weekend. His mother captured the emotional moment when he surprised his younger siblings on camera.