Thursday, December 12, 2013

Flyers go the distance to reward one military family

As they have done throughout the years during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Philadelphia Flyers honor returning veterans at each regular-season and playoff home game.

During Thursday's 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, the club went above and beyond to make sure one family received a holiday blessing. 

The club surprised the Windish Family of Wilmington, DE, with a homecoming of their son who is serving in the United States Army at tonight's game. The Flyers, along with Private First Class Matthew Windish, arranged to surprise his family during the second period of tonight's game. 

Having no idea their son had actually already returned from the service, the Windish Family believed the Flyers were honoring their son in a video tribute. Windish emerged from a giant, gift-wrapped box and surprised his family during the game. Windish is in his second year of service in the Army, serving a year-long tour of duty in the Republic of Korea as a Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic.

Here's video of the moment:
 

Below is a transcript of post-game interviews, from the Flyers:

Matt Windish, Army Private 1st Class

Windish family- big surprise here tonight. Mom, what was your initial reaction?
Mom: I was surprised. First I thought he was coming home, but then I didn’t think he was going to. I just thought it was going to be a video, but when they opened up that box and I saw his face… we have missed him so much this past year. It was an awesome surprise.

Matt, what was your reaction to this whole thing? Did you have a hand in planning it?
Matt: My brother did the whole thing for me. I just think that this is insanely awesome. I want to thank the Flyers- I want to thank everyone so much, my family, anyone for serving right now. This is awesome. I just wish that everyone that serves gets the opportunity to do this.

Dad, how great of a memory will this be? Watching your hometown Flyers play, and now getting this surprise from your son.
Dad: This is just awesome because I am a big Flyers fan. Every night I get a chance I like to watch them. Being out here by the ice, and seeing my son for the first time in a year is unbelievable. It is an awesome situation. I want to thank my sons for putting this together. This is the best Christmas present that I have ever had in my life.

Brother, where did you get the idea for this whole plan?
Chris: I’ve watched YouTube videos of people coming home, so I thought I would email the Flyers website saying, “I think you should bring my brother home.” Jason called me back. You should have seen me in my office. I was flipping out, people wondered what I was doing. I called my brother and told him what we were doing. We brought him home a week early, and had to hide him for a week. It was the hardest secret to keep even though they were badgering me about it. It is just an awesome feeling. Thank you Flyers, thank you Matt for serving, and thank you family for being here. We made it.

In terms of a Christmas gift, how great of a gift is this for you?
Matt: This is probably one of the best things in the whole entire world. This is insanely awesome. I just wish that everyone could get to experience this. I feel very grateful right now. 

How did you feel when they started chanting USA out there?
Matt: It was amazing. My heart started beating so fast I really had no clue what was going on. I went blank for a little bit.

Were you ever worried they weren’t going to open the box?
Matt: No, I wasn’t worried about that.

Do you two usually play jokes like this on your parents?
Matt: A little bit, but nothing ever this big.

How did you manage to hide him for a whole week?
Chris: We went up to York, PA where I went to college. I have some friends up there that held him hostage for a little bit, then he came home.
Matt: I just hung out with a few friends, tried to keep it low, stayed off of Facebook.
Mom: It was a great surprise because when Chris first told us about this I went on to his friends Facebook profiles just to see if anybody said anything like, “Matt’s home”- anything to get an inkling about it, but there was nothing. Everybody kept it a really good surprise.
Aunt: I knew he was home though, I felt that he was home.

Did you just have a hunch?
Aunt: We all felt it. I just knew he was coming home. I missed him, and I love him so much. It’s a great feeling
Dad: We told her, “Stop it. He’s not coming home and you’re going to get your hopes up. We just have to wait for the 20th when he is supposed to come home.” Here it is, he’s home. I don’t know what to say. Its unbelievable. Nothing has ever happened to me in my life, like this.  It is just fantastic.

You’re staying with them [family], is his room ready?
Mom: No, its not. I said, “Do I need to get his room ready?” Chris said no, so his room is not ready.
Chris: I am glad to have this guy home, its been a year and a half.
Matt: I am happy to see my family, this is crazy.

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