Video by Sandi Moynihan

YOKOSUKA, Japan—When Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffrey Lee received an urgent call to head to his work station on the USS Ronald Reagan one morning, he thought there was something seriously wrong. 

Lee raced down five ladder wells and right past the USO’s camera crew before realizing he walked into his own surprise birthday celebration, courtesy of his wife, USO Yokosuka and the Operation Birthday Cake Program.

“Everyone was in on it, everyone but him,” said Lee’s wife, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sarah Lee, who also happened to be visiting him in Japan at the time of the surprise.

A signature program of USO Pacific, Operation Birthday Cake provides an easy way for military families to send a birthday cake surprise to their service member stationed overseas.

“It’s very difficult, being overseas, to get a delivery done,” USO Yokosuka Center Manager Dalia Mares-McRae said.

“So [through Operation Birthday Cake, families can] contact the USO, purchase the cake through us and we then coordinate with the command … [to] surprise [their loved one].”

In Lee’s case, his wife found out about the program via Facebook and arranged the surprise with USO Yokosuka long before she’d even booked her tickets to visit him in Japan.

“He doesn’t really think his birthday is a big deal, but I always think it is because it’s the birth of him,” she said.

“It’s just really meaningful to be able to make his day in the smallest ways like that.”

– Chad Stewart and Joseph Andrew Lee contributed to this report.