MAMOU, La. (KLFY) — Three thousand soldiers from Louisiana’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team are deployed as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. They have been gone since November 2020 and won’t return to their families until at least Fall 2021.

Each soldier understands that separation is part of their duty, but it’s difficult to miss milestones, especially in the lives of their children. A staff sergeant from Evangeline Parish got a pleasant surprise that honored all the members of the brigade, reminding them that people at home appreciate them and their sacrifice.

Staff Sgt. Cal Thomas recounts what happened the morning he found out about a surprise from his son’s travel ball team.

“I woke up in the morning to a text message that said, ‘Look at this,’ and it was a picture of the jerseys and the name Thomas on the back,” he said.

When the travel ball coach asked if 8-year-old Isaiah could play on his team, Cal Thomas was leery to give his permission.

“I was kind of skeptical because he was one of the youngest on the team and I didn’t know this, but he also told me he was part of the brigade in his military career before retiring,” Cal Thomas says of Isaiah and his coach.

The coach’s military history and having children of the military on the team led their name: The Generals. The design of the uniform also includes the 256th unit patch.

Thomas was touched by the gesture. “It was amazing that he did that for me to dedicate his team to us.”

The Generals have done well since the season started, and Cal Thomas is visibly proud of their success.

“The tournament they actually showcase the unit patch, they placed second in that tournament and I think the weekend after they won first.”

Cal Thomas misses his family. They communicate every day via text or phone call. He keeps himself busy with his job in Administration and working out, he says.

“I tend to spend a lot of my off-time in the gym,” he said. “I truly try to keep my mind as busy as possible so I don’t think about home as much. It’ll bring you down on some days.”

Isaiah’s dad may not be with him in person, but he’s cheering him on from 7,000 miles away until he comes home.

“To see how far he’s come today is amazing. He’s a total story just in himself. He’s done a lot of tremendous things.”

Cal Thomas and his wife Claire have two children: Isaiah, 8, and Bentlie, 11. He has served in the Louisiana National Guard for 11 years.