S.C. couple on tonight's 'Surprise Homecoming'

A romance that started four years ago in Columbia and blossomed even as the couple was separated by war will play out its happy ending before a national television audience tonight.

A couple from Columbia will be featured in tonight’s episode of TLC’s “Surprise Homecoming.” The show reunites military servicemen and women with their loved ones.

In the episode, Ridge View High School graduate Pfc. Brandon Williams surprises his girlfriend, Lugoff-Elgin High School alumna Arielle Thomas, in Hartford, Conn., where Thomas was getting ready to graduate from Trinity College. Williams spent seven months serving in the Army’s 25th Infantry Division in Baghdad.

“Surprise Homecoming” is an eight-part TLC series hosted by country music star Billy Ray Cyrus. Each hourlong episode highlights unannounced homecomings for three soldiers as well as home video submissions of other military family reunions. The couple’s feature is a part of the seventh installation of the series.

Thomas, who moved from Columbia to be with Williams where he is stationed in Wahiawa, Hawaii, this June, was overjoyed when recalling her “Surprise Homecoming” experience.

“I was in complete shock; total surprise,” Thomas said of the couple’s rendezvous. “It was the best feeling in the world to see him right in front of me.”

Williams’ return coincided with Thomas’ graduation from Trinity. An unexpected act of devotion from the soldier to his loving girlfriend made the day unforgettable. “It was the best weekend of my life,” she said.

Appreciative of the 10-day leave Williams had been given to spend with her, Thomas acknowledged the exposure the show gives to families separated from those serving overseas.

“It’s really great, what they’re doing,” she said. “I have friends tell me that they can’t watch it without crying. It gives everyone appreciation for the armed forces and their families’ sacrifice.

“It was fun and I’m a lucky girl.”