Publix manager's gesture to sailor goes viral

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – A note of appreciation from a Publix store manager to a Jacksonville Navy family has gone viral on Facebook.

Alicia Jones posted a photo to the Publix Facebook page of a note that read, "Please enjoy your time with your family. Thank you so much for your sacrifice."

Jones had ordered a "welcome home" cake for her deployed husband, Jonathan, and when she picked it up from the Oakleaf grocery store, the store manager had left the note thanking the sailor for his service.

Her post has now been "liked" and "shared" thousands of times.

Jones said she went to Publix on the way to pick up her husband at the airport that day in September. He was home from deployment in Bahrain for two weeks, and this was his first time seeing his daughter.

So Jones got him a red velvet cake to say welcome home.

"When I went back to pick it up at 2 (p.m.), the lady at the bakery just gave it to me and said there's no charge, and there was a note," Jones said. "And I just started crying, and I said, 'Thank you so much, thank you. We appreciate those things.'"

Jonathan Jones (pictured, right) is an electronics technician overseas, usually stationed on a ship. This is his fourth deployment.

"It's hard because he's such a fantastic dad," Alicia said.

This time it was a complete stranger being fantastic.

Oakleaf Publix store manager Rick Henning gave the Joneses the cake to show his gratitude.

His co-workers said that's just part of what they stand for.

"We're so proud of the fact that our culture continues to carry on after over 83 years of connecting and engaging with our customers, and this is one great example of how we support our customers and we serve our customers," said Dwaine Stevens, of Publix Supermarkets.

"It's just the thought that counts, the little tiny things," Alicia said. "It's not even the fact that it was a free cake. It was just nice to know that people support and they realize the sacrifices that we give. We have two small children and he doesn't get to see them grow up, and it makes me really sad, but it's nice to know that other people care and they see that."

Hundreds of thousands of people have seen what Henning did after Alicia posted a picture of the note.

"People complain too much, and I just felt there needed to be a compliment to Publix and to Mr. Henning that we care and we appreciate everything he did," she said. "I never anticipated this whatsoever."

But she's thankful, not because she saved $25 on a cake, but because Jonathan's service and sacrifice was recognized.

"It's something small for you, but it meant a great deal to me and our family, and we really appreciate it," Alicia said.

Jonathan is coming home again for two weeks in April and home for good from his fourth deployment in April 2015.