Firefighters Help Army Vet in Surprise Reunion

The boy didn't realize the person beneath the mask and firefighting gear was someone he already knows.

A U.S. Army veteran turned the tables on his loved ones Monday, coordinating a surprise reunion after more than a year overseas. To help pull it off, he reached out to members of the National City Fire Department.

Tim Gomez has spent the past 386 days in Afghanistan as a civilian working for the U.S. Department of Defense. As the time neared for him to come home, Gomez and his fiancée, Erika Salazar, wanted to surprise Salazar's son.

But Gomez decided to surprise them both.

“I like to take it up a notch,” laughed Gomez about his surprise.

Gomez told his fianceé that his return was scheduled for August, not June.

Then he arranged for 9-year-old Sebastian Zuniga, a big fan of firefighters, to meet a man he thought was the newest firefighter at Fire Station 34 in National City.

What Sebastian didn't realize is that the person beneath the mask and firefighting gear was someone he already knows.

Gomez's smooth, stealthy moves paid off when he removed the mask covering his face.  He got a hug from Sebastian who has been counting the days and wearing the Army vet's dog tags since he's been overseas.

I feel glad because he's home and I thought he would be back in August,” said Sebastian. 

Meanwhile, Tim's fiancée, Erika, was speechless.

When asked what the surprise meant to her, she hugged Gomez tighter.

The surprise reunion made possible with the help of the National City firefighters. 

“It’s very emotional and makes your heart warm to be able to be part of that. It’s a great feeling,” said Battalion Chief Mark Beveridge of the National City Fire Department.

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