PICKERINGTON, Ohio - An Ohio soldier was left speechless after seeing an unexpected gesture from his Pickerington community. Army Specialist Brian Carroll received a welcome home fit for a hero Monday night.
Carroll's family planned a surprise pickup at John Glenn Columbus International Airport, while the community secretly filled the streets near their home.
Elyse Carroll could hardly contain her excitement walking down her driveway with her 3 children. The short ride to John Glenn Columbus International Airport seemed like eternity.
Carroll, her kids and more family members piled into the limousine to pull off a huge surprise.
At the baggage claim the Carroll family had an emotional greeting. It was the first time Brian Carroll would see his kids in 15 months.
"Is it a surprise? Yeah it is. A good one," said Carroll.
During a deployment overseas, Carroll discovered he'd have to fight a rare form of cancer. After surgery and months of chemotherapy treatment, the Pickerington hero won the fight and came back to Ohio to celebrate.
"This is incredible, more than I expected," Carroll said.
Local law enforcement shut down highways and roads leading to Pickerington for a soldier's escort home, but the biggest surprise of all brought Carroll to tears. His community lined the streets of his neighborhood with posters and signs, cheering for their hometown hero.
"I expected to come home to nothing. No fanfare, no police escort. To come home to this I Feel truly blessed. Just incredible to me," said Carroll.
Friends and neighbors wanted to be at the celebration.
"It's just I absolutely had to be here to support them. We're so grateful he's doing so well," said Heather Baldwin.
Even Violet Township firefighters brought Christmas gifts for all three of the Carroll kids, but the best gift of all, is having dad back home for Christmas.
"The one wish I had was to be able to make it home for Christmas and it was a dream come true," said Carroll.
The Mayor of Pickerington declared this December 19th, Brian Carroll Day. A good Samaritan donated the limo for the ride to and from the airport and the community put together the homecoming celebration in just a few days.
(Story below written before 6:00 p.m. on Monday)
PICKERINGTON, Ohio - When army specialist Brian Carroll and his wife, Elyse kissed goodbye in October of 2015 they couldn't know their world was about to turn upside down.
Brian spent a year in Kuwait and Iraq when he started getting nosebleeds. Elyse says the doctors found what they called an 'abnormal growth.'
"So, they flew him over to Texas and that's when they did a biopsy and we got the results of the cancer," said Elyse.
Doctors diagnosed Brian with a rare cancer the same day he met his infant son, Talan, for the first time. "So that day was a big roller coaster of emotions," said Elyse.
Brian underwent 12 hours of surgery while Elyse waited to learn if doctors would have to take his eye. "They came out and told us that his eye was saved. It was such a blessing," she said tearfully.
Three days after he underwent surgery, members of the the 1194th Engineer Company were reunited with their families.
Meanwhile, Elyse spent three months in Texas where Brian was undergoing cancer treatments while family members cared for the couple's three small children.
In November, Brian celebrated his final chemotherapy treatment and held on to hope he could come home for the holidays.
Back home in Pickerington, a total stranger learned about the Carroll family's struggles on social media, and decided to plan a homecoming celebration. The plan took on a life of its own.
Organizers say a Good Samaritan donated a limousine to get the family from John Glenn International Airport. Law enforcement rallied to provide an escort home.
Violet Township Firefighters gathered gifts for all three of the Carroll children. Santa Claus agreed to make a special appearance while local restaurants and bakeries pitched in to provide hot drinks and cookies and food for the family.
Elyse says the best part is while the entire community was planning a homecoming celebration, Brian thought he was surprising his wife by returning a day ahead of schedule.
"He thinks he's surprising me and we're going to show up at the airport and it's all going to be downhill from there," she laughed. "He's always wanted to be famous, ok? And I tell him you need to be careful what you wish for."
Elye's wish this year was for her family to be home together for the holidays.
At 7:30 p.m. Monday evening, people will line Hill Road at the entrance of the Sycamore Creek subdivision in Pickerington to show human kindness can triumph over struggle.
If you would like to help the family with expenses, you can visit their GoFundMe account by clicking here.