|Tonia Golden, a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, had been told that the “patient” in the bed in her exam room had been brought in by EMS, so she was expecting to find someone seriously ill. Instead, she found her husband, U.S. Army Spec. Thomas Golden, newly, unexpectedly and appropriately returned on Veterans Day from a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan.|
PINEHURST -- Tonia Golden, R.N., walked into an exam room in the Emergency Department at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital Tuesday night expecting to find a patient with chest pain or something equally serious.
Since she had been told was that the patient had come in via EMS, she was prepared for the worst.
Instead, Golden got a wonderful Veterans Day surprise: her husband, U.S. Army Spec. Thomas Golden, just back in the U.S. after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. He had tried to cover his fatigues with a sheet from the exam room bed – it didn’t work – and he was holding a bouquet of fresh flowers.
“I looked at the bed, and he was lying in the bed,” Golden says. “I think I must have been in shock. I was not expecting that at all.”
Several of Golden’s co-workers had followed her into the room and quickly responded with a spontaneous combination of cheers, tears, applause and laughter when she jumped into her husband’s arms.
“On our team, we have active military members, veterans and spouses of military, so this is close to our hearts,” says Kris Owens, R.N., clinical director of Moore Regional’s ED. “We had communicated with the team members on days and nights that day. We were very excited and anticipated his arrival. Many teared up, but it was one of the best experiences we had the privilege of witnessing.”
Golden knew that her husband was finishing up his deployment and would be heading home soon, but she was expecting him closer to Thanksgiving. When he learned that his arrival had been moved up, he enlisted the aid of his wife’s Emergency Department co-workers to set up the surprise, making sure she would be working that evening and figuring out how to get her away from her assigned area for a few minutes so he could slip into the department and into a bed without being seen.
“It meant a lot,” Golden says. “That look on her face, it was priceless.”
“Everyone said they knew about (the surprise),” his wife says, “but there was no hint whatsoever that this would happen. They did a good job.”
The Goldens met 10 years ago when both were working for Target, and they moved to Moore County two years ago after he finished basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., and was assigned to Fort Bragg. She took the job with Moore Regional shortly after.
As it happens, the Emergency Department reunion wasn’t the only surprise Spec. Golden had in store for his family. After the Goldens left Moore Regional Tuesday night, they drove to their home in Cameron to awaken their children – 8-year-old Kayla and 6-year-old Ivan – who hadn’t expected to see their dad so soon either.
And, on Sunday, the entire family will travel to Franklin, Va., to surprise Spec. Golden’s mother and sister at church.
“Everybody thinks I’m still in Afghanistan,” he says.
You can see a video of the Goldens’ Veterans Day reunion at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital on the FirstHealth of the Carolinas Facebook page.