Dining out at a fast food restaurant isn't usually a very memorable experience.
But for one military family, a recent trip to Chick-fil-A turned into a truly unforgettable meal.
On Wednesday, Brandy Rodriguez, a Fort Bragg army wife, was about to sit down to a meal with her family at a Chick-fil-A in Fayetteville, North Carolina, when they were greeted by the chain’s mascot: a cow wearing a red shirt with the chain's signature "Eat Mor Chikin" slogan.
The family started to take a photo with the cow but as they were smiling for camera, the mascot took off his cow head for a big reveal — he wasn't an employee of the chicken chain after all, but Rodriguez' husband, Antonio, who had just returned home early from his first deployment overseas.
In a video taken by a Chick-fil-A employee, a visibly stunned Brandy immediately leaps into Antonio's arms, while a relative is heard in the background saying, “Oh, no way!"
As the couple embraced, Chick-fil-A staff were reportedly so moved by the reunion that they, too, began to cry, Denise Windsor, Chick-fil-A's marketing director, told TODAY Food via email.
The silly but sweet surprise was actually the soldier's idea and his family helped him pull it off with help from employees at the Skibo Road Chick-fil-A (which is just 15 minutes from where Rodriguez is stationed at Fort Bragg) several weeks before his scheduled return. Since the family members are regulars at the restaurant, they decided it would be fun to dress Antonio as the Chick-fil-A "Cowmascot" after they learned he'd be able to come home early.
"We were happy to help with this surprise!" Windsor added. " Any chance that we can get to help make special moments for our guests, it's our pleasure."
Antonio's father Michael Rodriguez, who also served in the military, told TODAY Food that Chick-fil-A is one of the family's favorite restaurants and they go about once a week. “It’s really the environment, said Rodriguez. "The food is good, but the environment and the employees — it’s very welcoming and very comfortable.”
"We at Chick-fil-A were so happy for the opportunity to be a part of this soldier's surprise homecoming," the Chick-fil-A on Skibo Road's official Facebook page posted along with a video of the surprise reunion. "We are thankful for the sacrifice our military and their families make for the freedoms that we enjoy daily." The original video has since been viewed over 87,000 times.
The reunited couple is expecting their first child in March. Chick-fil-A gifted the family with a stuffed cow for the baby.