ABCNews.com(BOSTON) — For Staff Sergeant Mathew Noll’s family, the best part of the Celtics game last night wasn’t the fact that Boston won, but rather, it was the moment their son surprised them on the basketball court home from his seven-month deployment to Iraq, Jordan and Qatar.
“I knew I was going to react big, but they were hitting the roof,” Noll, who is in the U.S. Air Force National Guard, told ABC News of his family’s emotional reaction.
Noll is a teacher on the civilian side. One of his former students helped him pull off this monumental surprise, which was roughly two months in the making.
“One of my seventh-graders from last year was the one who facilitated all of this,” he said. “I had them doing a lot of community service projects where they’d be the one reaching out to companies to facilitate a project, like Make-A-Wish. He, having the knowledge of pulling something off like this, got the ball rolling with finding the members of the Celtics’ front office and he must’ve found the right person and sent the right email. He’s been great.”
Noll originally told his family he was returning home on Feb. 10, but unbeknownst to them, arrived home much sooner.
“I spent a few days hiding out at friend’s houses,” he said. “I knew it would be worth the wait. That’s what I kept telling myself.”
And it certainly was. His mom, Susan Noll, could hardly contain herself when she saw her eldest son entering the arena.
“There are no words. I’m still in shock,” she said. “It all felt like a dream. Like, ‘Oh my God, that’s really him. It was surreal. It was just surreal. My husband is retired military and my other son just finished basic training, and to be a military family and to have it happen like it did was just great.”
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 31, 2017
Noll said he was really nervous before his big unveiling, adding that the one thing going through his mind beforehand was, “Try to not look like an idiot. You only have one shot at this.”
Fortunately, the surprise went off without a hitch.
“It went as smooth as possible. There wasn’t one hiccup,” he said.
Noll is home for good now, and said he is very much looking forward to relaxing and seeing his pup.
“I’m going to sit in front of the fire and hang out with my dog,” he said. “I’m going to go grocery shopping and bunker down for the rest of the week.”
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