Pembroke residents Daron and Lori Jacobs, the parents of 24-year-old Lt. Charlie Jacobs, who is currently serving his first tour in Afghanistan with the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s 182nd infantry, thought they “were just out there to be supporting family members,” Daron said.
“Then all of a sudden, the crowd got a little bit louder, and I’m trying to look up at the [scoreboard],” he said, “and I listened to the announcement, and they said they had someone who wanted to help us drop the puck.”
Out from the Zamboni entrance emerged Charlie, home on leave. The Jacobs hadn’t seen their son since he left in June, and although they knew he was coming home for Thanksgiving, they were still completely shocked.
“People said [he was going to surprise us], and I went, ‘Oh, no, no, he’s not coming,’” Lori said. “We thought he was en route, so we weren’t expecting him until tomorrow sometime.”
Charlie bought his parents tickets for tonight’s game and was going to surprise them at their seats, but when a friend mentioned he had a contact at the Garden who might be able to arrange something special, “it all just fell together from there,” Charlie said.
“This was un-thought of at first,” he said. “It’s kind of unexpected on my part, but it’s great – fantastic.”
It was also “one of the most exciting moments of my life,” Charlie said.
“I was shaking. My heart was coming out of my chest. It was so unreal,” he said. “I almost jumped the gun….I saw them walking out there, and I just wanted to see them.”
His parents, standing at center ice in front of the cheering Garden crowd, felt the same way.
“They told us to stay on the carpet, and that went right out of my head when I saw him coming across the ice,” Lori said. “It’s like that mother’s instinct; you just want to hold him and hug him and kiss him.”
It was a fitting homecoming for a family whose hockey roots run deep. Both Daron and Lori grew up watching hockey, and Charlie has been playing – in high school and now during pick-up games – since he was a little kid.
“I grew up watching Ray Bourque, my favorite player….I wanted to play defense because of him,” Charlie said. “[Growing up,] my mother was in love with Bobby Orr. She’s probably going to kill me for saying that.”
So to be recognized for his service in front of a home Bruins crowd meant a lot to Charlie.
“I always think about the other guys who served before me, and the guys who are serving with me, and the guys that are over there right now that I had to leave,” he said. “[They’re a] great bunch of guys. [They have] a lot of experience, and [there’s been] a lot of teaching from them to me, so I’m thrilled that I have those guys.”
“I don’t like leaving them, [but] I also wanted to see my parents,” he said. “It’s tough either way.”
It’s tough for his parents, too, who said they try to keep things in perspective.
“This is what he chose to do, and we’re proud of him, and we support him for what he does,” Lori said. “Thankfully, we have the occasional phone calls [and] the Internet, which is fantastic….As long as we know we hear from him, we know he’s safe and just doing his job.”
And until Charlie heads back overseas just after Thanksgiving, they’ll all get to catch up in person.
“I think it’s going to be harder for him to leave next time,” Lori said. “He’s stuck with me for tonight now.”
Not surprisingly, none of them really seemed to mind.