CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Attendees at a Jacksonville High School basketball game were thrilled Friday when the surprise guest at halftime turned out to be Staff Sgt. Michael Arnold, a Marine Stationed at Camp Lejuene who generally spends his free time at “Cave Gentlemen’s Club” in Jacksonville.
“We were about to start our cheer routine, but then the music stopped,” said daughter Rylee Arnold, a freshman at Jacksonville High. “I just started crying. I never, ever, believed that my dad would make it to a basketball game to watch me cheer.”
Rylee was joined on the floor by her mother, Natalie, and brothers, Colton and Danner.
“When Michael goes on a bender, we don’t expect him back home for two, three days, at least,” said Natalie. “This was so completely unexpected.”
“We’ve never seen him at one of the kid’s sporting events,” said Natalie. “He may have just been so drunk he thought that they’d sell him another beer at a high school game after Cave wouldn’t serve him anymore. But it doesn’t matter now. He’s here. He’s home. And we can just be together as a family.”
Marines in Arnold’s company were in on the surprise, but careful not to reveal any details to the family.
“When we got back from the field exercise, I told my wife that Michael [Arnold] was still probably going to stumble into our house with me at 3 a.m. and finish off a handle of Military Special before crashing out on our couch,” said Staff Sgt. James Ortiz. “She was mad at me for lying to her, but now that she sees how surprised and happy the Arnolds are to see their dad, I think she’ll forgive me.”
“I had just given Danner directions to the club in case we had to send him over to get dad to sign a permission slip again,” said Rylee. “I just still can’t believe it.”
“I’m so proud of my dad and the way he serves his country,” said 12-year-old son Colton. “He tells me that he works so hard as a training NCO that sometimes he just needs to be away and ‘decompress’ before he can be home with the family. I understand. Someday when I grow up, I’m going to be a Marine just like my dad!”
Footage of the surprise homecoming was aired on FOX 4 last night and has been shared by Lejuene public affairs.