POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - A Sunday service turned into a soldier surprise for one Pocahontas mom.
Melissa Wheeless sits in a pew with the rest of the Great Harvest Church congregation most Sundays, praying for her son Matt's safe return home.
On this particular Sunday, little did she know God would answer her prayers in a matter of seconds.
"I have the honor of introducing one of our youth that's come home for a visit all the way from the United States Army," said a member of the congregation. "Matthew?"
At that moment, Matt, clad in his uniform, opened a door on the side of the church, making Melissa scream, "No!," in complete shock.
"They have never seen me move that fast on the cane in their lives," Melissa said Monday in an interview with Region 8 News. "I had the cane in high gear I guess you could say."
The two embraced amid a cheering congregation.
"I said, 'That's my baby. That's my baby,'" Melissa said. "I said, 'I love you. I love you so much. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Lord.' I just didn't wanna let him go. I just could not believe it."
Their embrace was nine months in the making, after the U.S. Army paratrooper tried making the trip from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to home in Pocahontas three times.
"I thought I was going to have a heart attack," Melissa said. "I just had no clue. Not one clue. Even when they said his name, it didn't even click. And to think I almost didn't go to church that day because of my bad back."
The pair's last reunion was for Mr. Wheeless's funeral, loving husband to Melissa and father to Matt. Now the mother and son are together again for two weeks under better circumstances.
"Gonna go out to the lake some," Melissa said. "Some home time just to goof off, grilling."
Melissa joked she was not looking forward to sharing Matt with the many friends and family eager to see him.
"I get the most time with him," she said. "I'm stingy. I just can't stop looking at him. He's great."
Melissa thanked her other kids for all the behind-the-scenes sneakiness to make a moment that she will cherish for a lifetime.
"It couldn't have been any better of a gift that anybody could have," she said.
"I love you, momma," Matt said.
"I love you, too, baby," Melissa said. "I'm just so happy to have him here and just take every single day and soak it in. Hopefully it won't go by too fast."
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