When ten-year-old Connor Dobbyn opened an enormous box addressed to him in March 2017, he was instantly rocketed on to an emotional roller-coaster ride of fear, shock and sheer delight. Connor had not been expecting a delivery that day and the South Carolina lad was even more surprised at what he found inside the package. This heartwarming tale explains how a presence within a present transformed one little boy’s run-of-the-mill present into an unforgettably wonderful experience.
Connor lives in the small community of Cleveland, near the city of Greenville, SC. The boy moved there from Florida in June 2016 with his mom, Jessica Poth, and her husband, Jason. Connor’s big brother, trainee G.I. Brad Marek, stayed with his dad back in The Sunshine State. Subsequently, later in 2016, Brad learned that he was going to be stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia, to complete his military training early the following year.
Consequently, it meant that Connor would not see his big brother for several months, much like countless family members all over the land with serving relatives in the military. Nevertheless, perhaps mindful of the long period of time they would be spending apart, Brad would often send his little buddy random letters and gifts. However, the huge item addressed to him that day in March was by far the largest surprise yet.
Moreover, the young boy’s mom seemed unprepared for such a massive package taking up so much of her living space. However, although she claimed to have been confused about the parcel’s origins, nonetheless, Jessica armed herself with a camera when Connor came into view. The subsequent footage reveals her quizzing her youngest son about the mystery in the mail before the returning schoolboy has even reached the house. And he appears mighty worried that he might be in trouble with his mom.
The scene captured by Jessica on her smartphone reveals the moments building up to the outsized gift being opened by the boy. As he approaches the family home, we hear his mom firing questions at him from behind the lens. Connor pauses on the grass outside as he strains to make sense of the barrage of queries about a box in the mail from his seemingly exasperated parent.
The confused fourth-grader shrugs as his mom hollers, “Hey, why didn’t you tell me that Brad sent you something?” Jessica gets him even more intrigued when she refers to the weight of the gift. “It took like two guys to get it off the truck!” she exclaims. Connor denies any knowledge of a parcel sent by his brother, despite having talked to him over the phone that morning.
After hurrying into the house the schoolboy is visibly taken aback at the impressive size of the box waiting for him. “Oh Shhh…!” he hear him utter, as he desperately tries not to use the S-word. His mom issues a mild rebuke for his almost choice of language but lets it slide, allowing him to pursue his investigation of the package. And all the while, Jessica keeps recording so we can all share in what happens next…
As a curious Connor eagerly pulls back the blue tape holding the lid shut, the two family dogs gather around him excitedly before promptly being told to move away. Connor only manages to open one end of the cardboard container before he hears a voice sharply saying, “Boo!” from inside. We see the little lad rear up and retreat in fright, but as realization quickly dawns on him, we watch on as Connor instantly becomes elated.
His beloved brother Brad climbs out of the box while the stunned boy struggles to contain his heightened emotions. The schoolboy roars dramatically as he bounces up and down before holding out his arms, eager for a warm hug from his homecoming hero. Connor is clearly overcome at the sight of the young would-be G.I. all present and correct in the family living room. Brad had only told him that morning that he would try make it home for a visit soon – well, mission accomplished, soldier.
The two dogs are also really excited to see the family reunion unfold in front of them. The gleeful canines are seen leaping around the happy duo as the brothers giggle in mutual joy in each other’s arms. “Oh God!” Connor cries out as he slowly begins to calm down. It is certainly a sight to behold and one sure to bring a tear to many a sentimental eye.
The boys’ mom shared the precious reunion film on Facebook later that month. In the accompanying caption, Jessica explained that her eldest child was only visiting for a couple of weeks but, nonetheless, this would give Brad some time to spend with his doting younger brother. But, shortly after her boot-camp-bound boy climbed out of his box, Jessica let a cat out of the bag on social media.
Indeed, the sneaky camerawoman admitted to her Facebook followers that she was part of the punk brains behind a huge prank. Apparently, Jessica had conjured up the magic reunion moment for Connor less than two weeks before with her eldest boy, but then she had experienced another brainwave. Having picked up Brad from the airport while her youngest was at school that morning, she suddenly decided to tape the soon-to-be soldier into a large package just before Connor’s home-time.
The mother-of-three went on to describe her youngest son’s experience as “the shock of a lifetime.” Her post explained, “We had it planned for about a week and a half. Brad called this morning from the airport and told [Connor] he missed him and would try to visit as soon as he could.” Unbeknownst to the schoolboy, his hero was almost home already – but the Connor-and-Brad reunion would have a twist. Jessica revealed, “The box idea I came up with after picking him up at the airport.”
But the mischievous mom was not to know how the episode would unfold, and she certainly did not expect the schoolboy to react in the extreme way her video showed. Despite managing to record the entire event, the mom found it difficult at times to contain her own emotions. “It was rough filming it,” Jessica admitted to her Facebook friends.
And many of her online buddies felt the same. “I bawled my eyes out when he seen him and started screaming ‘YEEESSSS,’” one follower wrote, while others admitted to becoming very emotional when they saw Brad appearing from the box. “Awwww. I teared up when I saw who came out of the box and surprised Connor,” said another pal.
But the brothers’ precious time together would, of course, be short lived. Those two weeks before Brad had to depart for his Georgia training base must have flown by. As with many families in the U.S., the siblings would have to say goodbye again before waiting patiently for the next reunion. But with a strong military-family legacy to live up to, the brave young Brad could return to his course with his head held high.
Happily Brad has since completed his army induction and is currently an E-3 Private First Class junior enlisted soldier. The fact that he wears his grandfather’s dog tag around his neck, means that his military forebear remains a constant source of inspiration. And Brad still has a way to go, the rank of private first class sees trainees develop from being apprentices to qualified service personnel through leadership and technical training.
Many thousands of kids across the States have close relatives in the military and heart-wrenching farewells and reunions are routinely shared on YouTube. Even after boot camp is complete, young soldiers can be deployed around the world for up to 15 months at a time. With vast numbers of these G.I.s playing a vital role in so many children’s lives at home, their absence on the home front cannot help but have a detrimental effect on families.
Not only does the absent parent or sibling leave a massive physical void in the family unit, the constant concern for the serviceperson’s safety can leave some children very stressed. These young people can experience a great sense of loss, anxiety and even depression. Many government initiatives have been put in place to look at the impacts such separations can have on young people and the long-term effects for their emotional well-being.
And, of course, we can only speculate on such matters when we consider the Cleveland, SC, story. Nevertheless, many people watching Jessica’s video were greatly moved by Connor’s reaction to seeing Brad after so long. Some were reduced to tears, watching it more than once in an attempt to understand the gravity of the magical family moment being shown to them. We can only imagine what was really going on in the mind of the young, impressionable boy in the footage – and hold out hopes for what his future holds.