Happy Homecoming: Local soldier surprises his two children at Cloverleaf Elementary
PHOTO: Alexa and Braxton Irwin are united with their dad during a surprise event at Cloverleaf Elementary School on Thursday.
BY KARISSA MILLER
Jeremy Irwin, dressed in his military fatigues, stood waiting in the hallway at Cloverleaf Elementary School on Thursday morning — waiting for someone to open the door to the science classroom.
During the past year, the Army staff Sergeant had said goodbye to his 5-year-old son Braxton and his then 10-year-old daughter Alexah.
His kids had no idea that their dad had returned home from his yearlong deployment to the Korean peninsula.
“I was right face to face literally to North Korea,” he said. “It’s different, I know what I signed up for. It’s a culture shock, and at the same time, it’s not. It’s different. I go where they send me.”
Irwin said was hard to say goodbye to his family when he shipped out for the first time, but as the deployments have continued, he has got used to it.
“It’s more like a see-you-later because I’m coming home,” he explained.
Thursday morning’s homecoming provided proof of that. On the other side of the door at Cloverleaf Elementary, Braxton and Alexa, who normally are in different classrooms, sat beside each other and worked on their lesson.
Taking advantage of the fact that different grade levels sometimes work together, school officials arranged for the students in Alexa’s fifth-grade class to help students in Braxton’s kindergarten class.
Principal Andy Mehall walked into the classroom and informed them of a special visitor.
“I have a special guest today to help us talk about community helpers, and we’re going to bring him in right now,” Mehall told the students as the door opened.
Classmates, teachers and staff looked on as Irwin entered the quiet room.
Alexa immediately jumped into her father’s arms and buried her face into his shoulder.
Tears fell from the eyes of family and teachers as the two embraced.
Braxton, who appeared stunned, was encouraged get out of his seat and see his dad. He walked briskly and gave his dad a big hug — as a huge smile lit up his face.
When asked what was going through his head at that time, the kindergartner captured them moment in a single word: “Wow!”
The other students gave Irwin a warm Cloverleaf welcome and round of applause.
The staff sergeant then talked with the students about his duties in the Army while serving overseas.
“Looking at it as a big picture, you aren’t only helping your community, you’re helping other communities,” Irwin said. “So what I did is I provided protection for people you will never even see again … instead of helping people you know, you have to help people that you don’t know as well,” he added.
Mehall informed Alexa and Braxton that they got go home and spend the rest of the day hanging out with their dad.
Joining Irwin was his mom Lorrie Settlemyre and brother Shawn Irwin, 33. Shawn said that he and his mom both are each other’s support system when he’s gone.
Tonight Settlemyre is preparing Thankgsiving dinner for her son. The family will have a small gathering at her house.
Alexa said she has missed her dad. She describes him as “fun,” “funny” and someone she loves to be around.
When asked what it means to be a military family, Alexa said, “I think that it means since our dad is in the military — we have a little bit of military in us.”