When duty calls, Buzz Lightyear is honor-bound to answer. At least that’s what one mom told her distraught toddler when he accidentally left his Buzz action figure behind on an airplane in the flurry of an unexpected, last-minute trip.
While the senior members of the Davis family didn’t expect to see Buzz again, the plucky astronaut made the return trip home in style—thanks to outstanding efforts by the Southwest airlines ground crew at Clinton National Airport Little Rock, Arkansas.
Taking a cue from the Toy Story film, the Davises had inscribed their 2-year-old son Hagen’s name on the sole of Buzz’s space boot.
After finding the misplaced space adventurer during a routine post-flight check, operations agent Beth Buchanan was able to match the name with an Elk Grove, California boy on the passenger list.
While Buchanan was sleuthing, co-worker Jason William Hamm saw Buzz sitting on her desk. With the owner’s identity confirmed, the steadfast ramp agent made it his mission to get Buzz back where he belonged.
Hamm reached out to the Davises via email to let them know Commander Lightyear would soon be California bound, but not content to send Buzz home in a boring box, he decided to take things to the next level.
Rather than let the astronaut take off incognito, Hamm launched his charge aboard a specially designed shuttlecraft that would ensure Buzz received a true hero’s welcome when he landed.
Along with a brightly decorated box highlighted with a string of memorable Toy Story quotes, Hamm tucked a series of adventure photos he’d taken of Buzz at different airport locales inside, along with a handwritten note that read:
“To Commander Hagen. I am very excited to return to you upon completing my mission. I was able to explore the airport and spaceport in Little Rock, Arkansas while I was away, and I have included photos of my adventure. My journey has taught me a lot but I am so thankful to return to my buddy.”
As the parent of an autistic child, Hamm truly understood how much the loss of a treasured toy could mean.“I wanted it to be a beautiful experience when he opened it up,” he told The Washington Post. “I just thought he would love it. I had no idea who he was, but I knew somebody was missing Buzz and was probably really sad.”
“I cried when I opened it. You could see all the love he put into it,” Davis told The Washington Post, but in addition to her tears, she couldn’t help but be tickled as well. “I wonder how many people chuckled when they saw the box with Buzz on it, as it made its way ‘to infinity and beyond,’ from Arkansas all the way to California.”
To let Hamm know Buzz had touched down safely, the Davises sent him a video with footage of the beaming face on their son during their “out of the box” reunion. While he’d made it his mission to go above and beyond, according to Hamm, the smile on the face of that happy toddler was all the thanks he needed.