Staff Sgt. Steven Mendez's wife and sons were attending a meet-and-greet at Bentley's show in Fresno, Calif. But what they thought was just a chance to snap a picture with the country star turned into a touching family reunion.
While the boys were making small talk with Dierks, their dad walked out from behind a curtain, dressed in uniform. The tearful reunion led to a group hug, accompanied by claps and cheers from everyone backstage.
As if the Mendez family's night couldn't get any better, Bentley had more surprises in store. The "Riser" singer and well-rounded entertainer behind the Hot Country Knights invited the family on stage to thank the Staff Sergeant for his service.
"It has profoundly changed my life seeing what happened backstage," Bentley explained to fans at the show. "I want to thank you so much for your service."
Then, the crowd erupted into a "U.S.A." chant. Bentley even gave the family a shoutout on social media after the show.
"Seen many military family reunions on tv ... first time to get to participate in one," he wrote. "Life changing. Thanks Staff Sgt. Steven Mendez and your family."
As the son of a World War II Army veteran, Bentley has been a long-time supporter of the military. Although he's not a veteran himself, the country singer has great respect for military members.
"What a feeling that must be that I will never know, to put on that uniform, American flag patch on your shoulder, and you're out there literally fighting for the flag, fighting with your brothers next to you and for everyone back home," Bentley told Taste of Country. "We can never really honestly have a sense of how that feels, but certainly we can honor them."
Bentley has also performed with the troops at several USO shows and partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project. In the pre-COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic world of 2019, Bentley took a break from his Burning Man Tour and joined Dustin Lynch as the first musical acts to perform at the US Military Academy at West Point's Michie Stadium.
This story originally ran on May 4, 2017.