October 03, 2012 Edition

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Soldier surprises siblings
with visit to Hoxie School

Mykala Johnson, a student in Jennifer Huff's third-grade class at Hoxie Elementary School, wipes away a happy tear after her brother, Michael Johnson, surprised her when he came home on leave from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Submitted Photo ~ Valerie Orrick
Gretchen Hunt

One Hoxie Elementary School third-grader got a big surprise on Friday when her brother, who is serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, walked into her classroom.

Michael Johnson, son of Dominique and Stephanie Johnson of Hoxie, came home on leave from Afghanistan earlier than expected.

A 2011 graduate of Hoxie High School, he has been in Afghanistan for seven months, and his family was anticipating a Thanksgiving or Christmas visit.

Instead, he came home in September. After being picked up at the airport, he surprised his little sister, Mykala, and other students in Jennifer Huff's class. His little brother, Stephan, who is in the sixth grade at Hoxie, was also in the classroom.

The class was watching a video of Michael reading a book to them as part of a USO program called United Through Reading. The program allows deployed soldiers to record themselves reading a book to send to loved ones back home.

As the kids were watching him on the screen, he walked in the door to finish the book in person.

Michael said he came to the school to read to students and surprise his little brother and sister, but he did not know when he entered that class that they were actually in there.

He said he heard someone say to Mykala that she should come up front and hug her brother.

"I looked over and she was sitting there crying because I was home," he said. "I went over and hugged her and then Stephan came and hugged me too. It was a big surprise for all of us."

He said he also got to surprise his brother James, who is a ninth-grader.

"I actually surprised him at the house before I went to the school," he said. "He walked in and I snuck up on him."

Michael, who will be home on leave until next Monday, said he will never forget those moments.

"I really love my two brothers and my sister," he said. "It was quite an experience."

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