Two military families, who formed an unlikely bond at a Virginia post office while a member of one was deployed in Afghanistan, were reunited at Walt Disney World for an unforgettable Thanksgiving surprise on “Good Morning America.”
Petty Officer Shannon Thompson and his wife, Irene, live at the naval air station in Lemoore, California with their two young daughters. In 2010, the couple was living in Salem, Va., when Shannon was deployed to Afghanistan with Second Battalion First Marines.
“I was definitely concerned with how she was gonna handle, you know, being two parents at one time,” Shannon, a Navy Corpsman, told ABC News.
Irene stayed in Virginia with their 4-year-old daughter Alanna.
“It was scary,” she said. “Thinking about him going to a war zone [is] nerve wracking...because you don't know what's going on.”
Irene was living with her in-laws, but it was when she went to mail a package to her husband overseas, she struck up a surprising friendship.
“I had to get some help filling out the form because I didn't know what to do,” she told ABC News.
Postal clerk Ron Johnson, 53, who served 6 years in the Air Force beginning in April 1983, was working that day and helped Irene mail the package.
“I remember she came in and [she] had no clue as to what to do and how to send these things overseas. And [I] just took her in and helped her you know get everything done to get the package mailed to her husband,” Johnson said. “As time went on, every time she came in, we'd talk more and more about her husband and her kid and family and just kind of built a little relationship there.”
The friendship became a source of great comfort for Irene.
“Being prior military himself, [Ron] knew kind of what it was like going through what I was going through,” she recalled. “I would wait to get in his line and go to his register, so I could just talk to him and you know give him an update and let him know how things were going. There was a period of time one time while [Shannon] was deployed I didn't speak to him for five weeks. He told me, he said, 'With military no news is good news. So if you haven't heard from him, he's OK. So that kind of made me feel better.”
The clerk's advice helped Irene more than he could ever know.
Shannon, who remains on active duty, made it home safely in May 2011, and although the Thompson's lost touch with Johnson when they moved to California shortly afterwards, they never forgot the impact his kindness had on their family.
They were thrilled for the opportunity to offer an incredible "thank you" to Johnson at Walt Disney World, where Ron learned that he and his fiancee, Kat, were being made Grand Marshals of the Disney parade in the Magic Kingdom.
After enjoying the parade up-close, the families boarded a boat together for a chance to catch up and take in the sights when they reached the pier at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
A Thanksgiving feast was the backdrop for their incredible reunion five years in the making, and as friendships rekindled, a huge "thank you" was delivered at long last in a magical way.
The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.