Heartland sailor comes home, surprises family during brother's basketball game

Heartland sailor comes home, surprises family during brother's basketball game

ADVANCE, MO (KFVS) - Saturday, March 19 was supposed to be just another normal day for Hunter Clifton and his mom Christi Pikey of Advance, Missouri.

Pikey took her youngest son to his basketball game at the Osage Centre in Cape Girardeau on Saturday. Hunter, a player on the SEMO Rainmakers, took on TC Hoops in the first game of the tournament.

But before the game even started, the officials pulled Hunter and his mom to the middle of the court because they needed to verify Hunter's age to see if he was eligible to play in the game.

Unbeknownst to Hunter and his mom, this was all part of a bigger plan.

Hiding behind the curtain was Christi's older son and Hunter's big brother, Dakota Swift.

Dakota is an Aerographers Mate 2nd Class Petty Officer with the U.S. Navy and has been in Japan for the last two-and-a-half years. He was recently allowed to take a leave to come home and visit with his family - but he decided he wanted it to be a surprise.

"I only get to take leave, maybe once a year at most," Swift said. "We're four deployed over there so we're always gone, we're always busy. It's very rare that anyone gets to take leave."

Swift waited for the right moment and then started walking up to his family, ever so slowly, so as not to be seen.

"This was kind of a last minute thing that I actually got to go home so I'm just going to try to surprise everybody," Swift said.

Meanwhile, Pikey was about to go to her car and grab her younger son's last report card to verify his age.

"They had told me because he's bigger that they were calling him out there for discretion of his age," Pikey said. "I was totally confused."

All of a sudden the officials decided Clifton's age wasn't a big deal. And that's when Pikey felt an arm around her from her son Dakota.

Pikey and Clifton were in shock.

They quickly realized that Dakota was home and emotions started settling in as both Dakota's mom and little brother both gave him huge hugs.

"I was totally and completely shocked," Pikey said.

"I was emotionless," Clifton said. "I didn't expect it at all. Kind of just got me off guard."

"It was great," Swift said. "They looked a little shocked. They didn't really react like you see on the videos all the time but it was great. A once in a lifetime moment that I'm sure I definitely won't forget and I know they won't forget."

Afterward, Clifton gathered himself, laced up his shoes and got ready to play his game - with his big brother watching on the sideline.

"It added a lot of pressure to the game," Clifton said. "I wanted to play for him."

Swift sat by his mom and other family members as they caught up and watched Clifton score six points and grab 12 rebounds.

"I haven't got to see him in the past couple of years and I'm glad to come here and support him in his game," Swift said. "My little brother, he's awesome. He looks up to me all the time and I wish I could be here more for him."

"He's my role model," Clifton said of his big brother.

"I think I'm going to be emotional for the next two weeks he's going to be here," Pikey said. "I've missed him a lot."

As far as the game goes, whatever the score was didn't matter; it will be a distant memory behind what happened at center court before the game.

As they left and were about to walk out of the building, Swift's grandparents walked in.

Immediately his grandfather gave him a big hug, followed by an even bigger hug from his grandmother.

Swift will only be home for two weeks before he has to be back in Japan on April 3.

But until then, Pikey and Clifton said they are going to try to make the most of their time together, and will cherish their surprise of Swift's homecoming for a lifetime.

"He's going to celebrate Easter with us and I just want to hug him," Pikey said.

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