A grandma who raised her soldier grandson thought she was paying him a visit while he was on duty nearby – only to be surprised with her two-year-old great-granddaughter she had never met before.
Donovan Ruffin, a private first class in the United States Army, was raised by his grandma Virginia Friend after his parents were arrested when he was born.
Having grown up under the watchful eye of Virginia, 81, Donovan made a pact to himself that he would eventually repay his grandma for raising him and his three siblings.
At one point in his adult life, Donovan became homeless while living in Las Vegas – but Virginia was there again, he said, helping him get back on his feet from afar, from her home in Richmond, Virginia.
In January 2023, Donovan, 22, joined the United States Army Reserve and found a home in Vegas.
With his life back on track, he decided that he wanted his daughter, Nyla, to meet his grandmother for the first time – so he planned a trip that wouldn’t make her suspicious.
Donovan told Virginia he was heading to Virginia Beach for military training and that his brother had offered to drive her from Richmond so they could meet.
On the day itself, though – which was also Nyla’s second birthday – Virginia was met with another surprise.
Donovan first presented his grandmother with some flowers, which caused her to well up and led Donovan to advise her to sit down for the next part.
He handed the camera to his brother as he headed outside to collect his daughter and girlfriend, Kayla.
Nyla was encouraged to walk in on her own, and initially, Virginia didn’t recognize the youngster staring back at her.
Then, as everything began to click, Virginia broke down crying, realizing the scale of the moment as she was finally able to hug her great granddaughter for the first time.
Donovan said: “I got her some flowers and laid them on her bed, so when she walked in I gave them to her before telling her to sit down because she was going to cry about the flowers.
“I told her I had another surprise, told my brother to grab the camera, and I ran up and got my girlfriend and daughter.
“I let my daughter walk on her own and it took my grandma a little while to recognize what was going on, but once she did, she broke down crying.
“I felt like the inevitable was happening; I felt like everything I went through – the homeless shelter, the depression – all led up to this moment.
“I was the baby of all my siblings that my grandmother raised.
“I was the only one she had from birth – and I was her baby who now has a baby, which is so special.
“The message I want people to take from this is: no matter how old someone gets, their life doesn’t stop once yours starts.
“I want them to realize life is short, you should love the ones you have as much as you can and do everything out of love.”