Brian Ecker knew his twin brother Bill was due home from Afghanistan imminently. He just didn't know quite how imminently.
A heartwarming home video that was uploaded to YouTube Wednesday shows a sleeping and unsuspecting Ecker being smacked awake by his brother, an Air Force senior airman still in uniform.
"He was tapping me pretty hard on the forehead," Brian Ecker, 24, said. "I was like, 'Who the heck is doing that to me?'
"I was about to punch him."
But instead of punching his twin, he grabbed Bill and locked him in a big bear hug after realizing who was nudging him awake. The scene in Black Mountain, N.C., caught on video, was a tender glimpse of a family's joy at being reunited. It clearly struck a chord: The clip had nearly 200,000 views on YouTube by week's end.
"I was so overjoyed to have my best friend back," Brian said. "That was probably the way for anyone to wake up."
Ecker had been in Afghanistan for six months, stationed in Kandahar, his second deployment in two years. One of four boys in a tight-knit family, he was eager to get home, and surprise everyone. What he hadn't counted on was starring in a popular web clip.
"My mom wanted to know when I was coming home so I could surprise my brothers," Ecker said. "My brothers wanted to know when I was coming home so I could surprise my mom. So I went to my uncle's house."
He ended up giving his mother, Judy Anderson, enough warning of his arrival for her to have the video camera waiting. Brian, asleep on the couch at 10:30 in the morning after working the overnight shift as a YMCA security guard, proved too tempting a mark.
"He opened his eyes -- I was tapping him pretty hard -- and I thought, 'Oh, boy, he's going to hit me,'" Bill said, laughing. "Then he reached out and grabbed me."
Anderson, herself a retired vet, raised her four boys alone as a single mother in Black Mountain. "They're the sweetest kids; thick as thieves, all of them," she said. "I am so glad to have my son home."
He'll be home for two weeks, during which time the family will have Christmas dinner. Ecker was overseas in December.
But the surprise of his homecoming and the keepsake of that video -- shot by brother Barry and uploaded to YouTube by brother Bobby -- will endure far beyond.
"This past year was especially hard on me," Brian Ecker said. "I went through a breakup and a lot of emotional stress. On top of that, having my best friend and twin brother overseas in that war and in a constant state of danger, it's pretty devastating.
"Having him home again, all my worries disappeared."