Soldier Recalls "Magical" Reunion with Son at Titans Game


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rachel Hicks has watched plenty of videos of soldiers surprising family members.

"I watch them on YouTube,'' Hicks said on Wednesday morning, "and I cry every time."

On Sunday at Nissan Stadium, Hicks played a starring role in one of those unforgettable moments.

Hicks, an ammunition supply sergeant for the Army National Guard who just returned from Kuwait, came out of a box during Sunday's Titans-Packers game to surprise her 6-year-old son, Malichai. His reaction was priceless.

"It was magical,'' said Hicks, a 2010 graduate of Greenbrier High. "It was the best feeling ever, besides when he was born. I'll remember that moment for the rest of my life. I'm sure we both will."

It was part of Salute to Service Day.

"That was very moving," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said of the reunion. "There was a lot of very moving things. That flyover with our Titan Up flag—if that doesn't get you. And then (if) the reunion doesn't get you -- that was tough. Everything about that pregame was pretty moving."

Hicks has been emotional about it ever since. She said she gets teary-eyed every time she watches the video on Titans Online.

Hicks said she grew up a Titans fans. When she was five years old, she had a Jevon Kearse jersey that went down to her ankles. When she wore it in high school, it fit her just fine, she said. While in Kuwait, she watched the team's games -- at 2 a.m.

"I have been a Titans fan since I can remember," she said. "And I love Marcus Mariota. We have his jersey now."

Malichai, in fact, was wearing a No.8 Mariota jersey on Sunday when she surprised him.

Here's how it happened:

Hicks arrived back in Nashville on Saturday night before the Titans-Packers game. She'd been serving in Kuwait since February as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Spartan Shield. The unit she deployed with is from Las Vegas.

Leading up to the game, contact was made with the Titans about the potential surprise. When she found out it would happen, she was thrilled about it.

On Sunday, Malichai stood on the field with T-Rac during a break in the action, and watched a video message from his mom. At the end of the video, he was surprised when his mom, decked out in camouflage, popped out of a box she's been hiding in for 10 minutes.

"His reaction, it was incredible,'' Hicks said. "We were both just crying, and he was so happy. Seeing his face, it was overwhelming. The little "rock hands" he held up. I'd never seen that before -- I think that was something he probably picked up from his friends. He was just so excited."

"He was just clinging to me. He didn't want to leave my side. He wanted to hug me and kiss me and he didn't want me to go anywhere."

Hicks said the feedback from friends has been overwhelming as well. Malichai, who stays with her grandmother when she's away, is still beaming.

"So many people have shared (the video) and liked it and tagged me. I've never had so many Facebook notifications before," Hicks said. "Everyone has been telling me how proud they were and welcome home and how they were so glad I was there and being able to do that awesome surprise.

"It's a moment I'll never forget."

Titans honor U.S. Military on Salute to Service Day at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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