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Illinois soldier gets plane ticket home, thanks to a stranger

A generous stranger bought a ticket for an Illinois soldier who was waiting at a Texas airport in the hope to catch a flight home on Memorial Day weekend.

Keaton Tilson, 19, a U.S. Army mechanic stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, was given permission on Thursday to go home to Granite City, Ill., for the Memorial Day weekend, Fox 2 Now reported.

Tilson had not been home since Christmas.

Tilson went to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, bought a standby ticket and hoped to get a last minute seat on a flight. The teenager waited at the airport for two days.

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“It looked good at first,” Tilson’s mother, Jennifer, told CBS News. “There were open seats. Then something happened, and he kept missing flights and missing flights.”

Tilson asked a gate agent if there was anything else he could do, but the agent said to the soldier that it did not look promising.

A few hours later, Tilson called his mother to let her know that he is not at home.

“I had to keep quiet, because he was surprising his brothers,” said Jennifer. “I didn’t want to tell, in case he didn’t come.”

Not long after his call, a man asked the gate agent if Tilson could take his ticket for a flight that he is on board.

The stranger, Josh Rainey of Glendale, Mo., was told that he could not exchange the tickets right before boarding. Rainey called his wife for assistance, and then returned to the gate agent to buy the soldier a $375 ticket home.

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“We (Rainey and his wife) have agreed that it is the right thing to do to go back and buy a ticket,” Rainey told Fox 2 Now.

Later on the plane, the soldier hugged Rainey, before he got to the seat. As he spoke, Tilson learned that Rainey lived nearby and that they shared a common friend. The use of that information, Jennifer was able to obtain Rainey ‘ s information and formally thank him.

“I told him how grateful we were,” said Jennifer. “He just knew that was the right thing to do. His father was in the army for 30 years.”

Rainey said the teenager’s hug was the best thank you he could receive.

“That was worth every penny,” Rainey said.

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