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Columbia soldier surprises mom after returning from Afghanistan

A Columbia woman got more than she ordered when she went out to dinner. She got the surprise of her life when her son, a soldier, showed up after nearly a year in Afghanistan!

Soldier Brian Gardner found out he was getting to come back home to the U.S. back in March, but kept it a secret for two months in order to pull off the thing he wanted to do most when he got back to American soil: surprise his mom.

On Tuesday, Gardner hid in his mother’s favorite restaurant – Olive Garden – while she sat down to eat with her other son.

Gardner let ABC 17 News cameras tag along as he pretended to be a waiter, bringing out the drinks they ordered.

His mother, Tammy Coats, was looking down at the menu when he placed her drink in front of her and said, “Here ya go, momma.”

Coats’ head snapped up and she jumped out of her saying saying, “Oh my God,” over and over while she cried.

The patrons and wait staff in Olive Garden burst into cheers and clapping, and several diners came over to say their congratulations and thanks to the 23-year-old soldier.

Coats could barely speak when the chaos died down.

“I’m just shock and awe! My heart is pounding,” Coats said. “I’m just so glad he’s home.”

And Gardner agreed, saying he was ecstatic to be home.

He enjoyed a playful reunion with his dog later that night.

The family said they just need one more person for everything to be normal again.

“We’re still waiting on dad. We just need him to come home and we’ll be whole again,” Coats said.

Coats’ husband, Brian’s stepdad, is currently still overseas in Afghanistan.

The family said he should be back in January of 2015.

Both the husband and Gardner are engineers in the army.

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