By Sandi Moynihan

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti—When deployed Army Sgt. Sean Brocious woke up on his 23rd birthday in Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Africa, he expected the day to pass just like the other 285 days he’d spent far from home. But thanks to a chance conversation he had at the base gate with USO Camp Lemonnier Center Manager Michael Eyassu, Brocious received a birthday surprise he’ll never forget.

It all started midday when Eyassu, who has worked at the center since it opened in 2015, was passing through the base gate to pick up birthday cakes in Djibouti City for the USO’s monthly birthday party program at the center later that night.

“The whole purpose of the program is to celebrate a birthday for everyone who celebrates a birthday in the month of October or whatever the month may be,” Eyassu said.

Brocious, who was checking identification at the base gate, asked Eyassu where he was headed and the two began to chat about the USO birthday program taking place that same day.

“I asked him [if he knew someone who had a birthday this month]. And he said, ‘Yeah I do know someone.’ And I’m like, ‘Who?’ And he’s like, ‘Me.’”

After chatting a few more minutes and learning that Brocious, who often works 12-hour shifts at the base gate, would be unable to attend the USO event that evening, Eyassu made it his mission to bring a slice of birthday cheer to the Little Rock, Ark., native during his shift.

“At the end of the day, you’re deployed, so you don’t expect it,” Eyassu said. “You don’t expect someone or any organization to offer that to you. It just brings them a little piece of home, which I know sounds cliche, but is pretty true.”

Several hours later — with tiramisu cake and sodas in hand — Eyassu returned to Brocious’ post to surprise him and his coworkers with birthday treats.

“This is my favorite part of this whole deployment right now. We don’t get much,” Brocious said.

“It lifts your spirits definitely. You don’t really have much to look forward to on a day-to-day basis, so stuff like this, whenever you guys bring out [things like this] … it really helps us out.”

You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.