When Brittany Bunker found out her father’s health was rapidly failing on April 2, she knew she needed to get home, she wrote in an April 15 viral Facebook post.
The only catch was that she needed to take four flights, with her service dog in tow, to get home from her military post where she serves in the United States Air Force. She would get her home around midnight April 3 so she could have some time to say goodbye to her father.
Bunker’s first flight took off late, making her miss her second flight.
“I was freaking out, but the flight attendant told me there was one more flight going to where I needed to be,” she wrote.
She was about to board the flight when she says a man, Tim Gerdeman, a partner at communications firm, approached. He told her he had served in the National Guard and had grown up near Bunker’s hometown, and then he showed her some pictures of his own dog.
Bunker got on the second flight after talking to Gerdeman. During the second flight, Bunker found out her final flight, to Toledo, was cancelled. She landed at O’Hare around 9:30 p.m. and was frantically talking to her family to figure out how she would get home.
She had options: There was another flight that left at 11:30 p.m. and her family offered to drive five hours to come get her.
That’s when Gerdeman again approached her and said he was going to pay for a driver to take her all the way home.
“I was apprehensive at first, but he showed the receipts to the flight attendants and when the driver arrived, he sent them a picture of the car, the license plate, and the driver,” she wrote. “Before I left, he said all he wanted in return was for me to let him know I made it home.”
The driver took Bunker right to her family’s front door. She arrived at 3 a.m. April 4, just a few hours later than originally intended.
“Thanks to this man’s selflessness, I was able to make it home and say goodbye to my father before he passed a day later on the morning of April 5,” Bunker wrote. “There really are good people in this world, and I will never be able to thank him enough for what he did. But I hope that one day I will be able to pay it forward to someone in need like it was done for me.”
In a statement to NBC 5, Gerdeman said he paid for the ride out of respect for active military personnel.
"My patriotic gesture of kindness was focused solely on helping someone facing an extremely difficult personal situation while simultaneously protecting our country," Gerdeman said. "While I appreciate all the well wishes, I respectfully request that the focus return to the soldiers currently serving our country around the world, as well as to all military veterans. Rather than thanking me, I ask that everyone simply try to find their own individual way to show thanks to our military personnel they know our meet, as I did with Ms. Bunker."
The Facebook post had more than 487,000 likes and reactions and more than 283,000 shares as of Wednesday.