The Wisconsin Badgers beat the Purdue Boilermakers 41-10 on Saturday but the real touchdown of the game came when a Wisconsin alumni and Army reservist surprised her 13-year-old daughter after a six-month deployment in Afghanistan.
The daughter, Isabella Lund, of Madison, thought she was standing on the field next to Wisconsin’s mascot “Bucky Badger” to be honored as the military child of the game.
After being introduced on the field and watching a clip reel of her mom, Capt. Jane Renee “J.R.” Lund, a veterinarian in the U.S. Army Reserves, play on the jumbotron, Bella, as she is known, turned around to see her mom standing there, in real-life.
“The last time I talked to her I told her I was still in Afghanistan but we were hoping to pack things up and get home soon, around October,” Lund, deployed since April, told ABCNews.com. “She thought I was still in Afghanistan.”
Lund, 36, got the idea to surprise her daughter while she was overseas in Afghanistan, where she helped train veterinarians and set up government-sponsored programs for villagers. When a friend who volunteers at Wisconsin football games suggested she surprise Bella, a Badgers fan, at a game, Lund said the idea had never even occurred to her.
“I said, ‘I didn’t even know that was an option,’” she recalled.
Lund arrived in Madison on Thursday night and spent Friday closing on a new home for her and Bella that she bought while serving overseas. On Saturday, her friend who came up with the surprise idea took Bella to the game while Lund went and sat in a different section, as coordinated by the university’s athletics department.
“In the first quarter they came and got me and hid me under the stands,” Lund said. “She [Bella] still thought she was just being recognized because her mom was deployed.”
“It was perfect,” Lund said of the moment Bella saw her. “When she turned around and I saw the surprise in her face, I think that’s what every parent lives for — to see my daughter again and have her back in my arms.”
Lund admitted she was a little nervous at how her daughter, whom she described as a “Type-A personality,” would react to such a major surprise but, said that in the end it was worth it.
“She took it really well and she even admitted later that she was hoping I’d surprise her,” Lund said. “And she put on her Badger gear this morning and insisted on wearing it to school.”
Lund, a four-year veteran of the Army Reserves, plans to resume her full-time teaching and part-time veterinary practices now that she is back home in Madison. She also plans to stay in the Reserves, for which she is gone one weekend per month and two weeks per year, and does not know when she’ll be deployed again.
“I should have some significant time home,” she said. “There are still lots of soldiers in Afghanistan and lots of soldiers not home and it was just so amazing that soldiers were recognized [at the game] and that people took the time to notice that and were appreciative.”