Army sergeant returns from Iraq to surprise his fiancée at Suns game

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Here's a story that's sure to tug at your heartstrings.

It was a reunion too long in the making, and it was all made possible thanks to a Valley company and a hometown team.

Sanderson Ford teamed up with the Phoenix Suns to reunite a military member with his fiancée.

The surprise reunion unfolded at the Suns game Saturday night as the team took on the Bucks.

U.S. Army Sgt. Bruce Merrill just returned from a tour in Iraq. He joined the United States Army in 2009 as a Heavy Construction Equipment Operator. He was deployed to Iraq in 2016 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, after which he received the Army Commendation Medallion for his support of the Coalition.

Now, it was time to return home, and return to his fiancée.

"I contacted the Suns back in October and I've been working with them ever since," he said of the planning that went into the surprise. "The hardest thing has been not telling her. I can't keep secrets from her."

Well, he was able to keep this particular secret!

His fiancée, Jennell, had no idea she'd be seeing her soulmate so soon.

But at the end of the first quarter of the game at Talking Stick Arena, Sgt. Merrill gave his fiancee the surprise of her life!

Organizers put Sgt. Merrill in a giant inflatable gorilla suit, and had him "race" Jennell down the court.

It wasn't until they finished "racing" that he unzipped his costume and stepped out for the "big reveal."

When Jennell realized who it was, she came running toward him, flinging herself into his waiting arms.

It was an emotional reunion with lots of hugs and tears. The crowd also went wild, cheering on the happy couple as "Celebration" played in the background.

Jennell says she was very surprised, although she did have some suspicions when she wasn't able to reach him.

"I knew something was up," said Jennell. "I was just trying to figure it out."

"This is the best homecoming I could ever have imagined," said Merrill, hugging his soon-to-be bride.

This special surprise event is a part of a season-long "Seats for Soldiers" campaign hosted by Sanderson Ford at Phoenix Suns home games. 

Fans looking to nominate an active military member or medically discharged soldier for the "Seats for Soldiers" program can visit

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