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Watch Sgt. Jesse Hawkins surprise his family during Cavs game after a year serving in Korea (video)

February 3, 2019

Watch Sgt. Jesse Hawkins surprise his family during Cavs game after a year serving in Korea (video)

CLEVELAND, Ohio-- Connor and Oliver Hawkins are used to seeing their father in feather-stuffed form.

On Saturday night, after nearly a year, the four-year old and two-year old got to see their dad in the flesh once again.

Sgt. Jesse Hawkins, a huge Cleveland sports fan from Columbus, spent a year overseas in Korea with the U.S. Army, before flying back home to Ohio to surprise his kids and his family with his presence.

The emotional moment was months in the making, when Hawkins’ wife, Brooke, had her two sons, a life-sized cardboard cutout of her husband in uniform and two small dolls Jesse’s image front and center at Browns Training Camp in August.

Upon asking about the dolls and the cutout, Brooke told the story of her husband, who she didn’t want to miss any of his beloved Cavs, Indians, Browns or Ohio State games while away.

Brooke brought the cutout of Jesse to nearly every sporting event she attended, where players such as Myles Garrett and Larry Nance Jr. held and took photos with it. All the while, Connor and Oliver held their “daddy dolls” tight, as a reminder that their dad was always with them.

When Brooke found out that her husband was set to be coming home in February, she thought of no better way to welcome him back than by surprising her sons and her in-laws by bringing him out on the court at a Cavs game.

The Cavaliers heard Brooke’s story and were instantaneously on board, helping to orchestrate the moment with Brooke and Jesse.

The team gave Brooke plenty of tickets, while inviting Jesse and his friends to a suite to enjoy some food and drink before the game. Just before the first quarter ended, Brooke, Connor and Oliver were led to the court and featured on the jumbotron, where they were given custom uniforms-- one for each of the Hawkins’ family, including Jesse, who they made to believe was still overseas.

Two minutes later, Jesse Hawkins jumped into an inflatable basketball hoop suit and walked out onto the floor.

While Brooke knew who was in the costume as he walked to center court, Connor and Oliver, along with Jesse’s parents and many other family members, were certainly unaware.

Low and behold, as Cavs on-court announcer Ahmaad Crump instructed the boys to put five balls through the inflatable hoop, off they went. Upon the fifth made basket, the boys ran over to collect their souvenir basketballs as Jesse was helped out of the costume. When the boys turned around, the entire arena erupted in applause as they hugged their dad for the first time in a year.

Jesse felt the hugs were as satisfying as anything he could have imagined after twelve months away.

“I was pretty nervous until I actually got out the court and saw the kids. Then it was like all the nerves all just went away,” Jesse said. “I think it turned out really good. It was awesome.”

His wife was in agreement and in tears as the moment unfolded.

“The reaction from the crowd, people just standing and just honoring somebody that they have no clue who he is and have never met him in their entire lives and how one person can just do so much and how many people are appreciative of that, it hits home,” Brooke said. “To see the reaction, like a million people crying, I’m ugly crying, it means a lot.”

You can watch the moment unfold in the video above and take a behind-the-scenes look in the Facebook Live videos below.

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