Originally written on The Last Angry Fan  |  Last updated 10/29/14

Tennessee State was in Chapel Hill to take on No.1 ranked North Carolina this past Tuesday, and a genuinely touching moment took place during coach John Cooper’s pregame speech when redshirt freshman M.J. Rhett was asked to take the floor, only to be surprised by his mother Stephanie, an E-5 sergeant in the Army National Guard, who was on leave from a tour of duty in Iraq.

It was the first time the two had seen each other since Stephanie’s deployment last August.  And while Rhett frequently speaks with the woman he refers to as being “like his best friend” via Skype, but this is the first time mother and son have been face-to-face.  M.J. had no idea his mom would be home to see her son play basketball for TSU for the first time, and needless to say, the whole experience was rather emotional.

From The Dagger…

“When I saw her, I was in disbelief,” the younger Rhett said by phone after the game. “I hadn’t seen her in so long and I hadn’t talked to her in the past three or four days. I didn’t have any clue what was going on and I was getting a little worried how she was doing. But when she popped up in the locker room, I was shocked and relieved.”

“She’s had a huge influence on my life,” Rhett said. “She’s like my best friend. I talk to her almost every day. I can talk to her about anything, girls, basketball, school, anything. No matter what, I can talk to her.”

Even though M.J.’s Tigers were blown out by the more powerful Tar Heels 102-69, the fact that his mother was behind the Tennessee State bench to watch him score two points and grab five rebounds in 17 minutes of play outweighed any disappointment that might have been felt by losing to the top ranked team in the country.

Video of the tender moment follows the jump…

Stephanie Rhett, who took a 10-year leave from the military to raise her son, will be home now for the next two weeks, meaning that M.J. will get to spend a little quality time, and a most assuredly wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, with the woman he cherishes most in the world.  Like all veterans, Stephanie should be lauded and praised for her selflessness for serving in the military, so it was nice to hear that the North Carolina faithful gave her a standing ovation at halftime when she was introduced to the crowd on the Dean Dome video board.

Much like the Veteran’s Day surprise return of Lt. Charlie Jacobs at a Bruins game, these reunion videos never get old, and they put into perspective what really should matter in our lives.  So this Thanksgiving let’s be grateful for the important things in life—family, friends, and those serving in the military who won’t get to spend the holiday with loved ones because of their sense of honor, duty, and sacrifice.

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