Airman surprises niece at school

ATTICA – The embrace was a long time coming.

When Leah Drown, a second-grader at Seneca East Elementary School, returned to her classroom Tuesday afternoon, a man awaiting her arrival was sitting in her seat. She hugged him and cried as her classmates watched.

Her uncle, Senior Airman Josiah Drown, made a surprise visit to her classroom after returning home from overseas. He had been gone about for about seven months.

“We have to thank him for serving our country,” said Leah’s teacher, Nickie Chaffee.

During the visit to Leah’s classroom, Josiah fielded questions from her classmates and heard stories of people they knew who had served in the military.

Josiah, a 2004 graduate of Seneca East High School, has been in the military since 2009 and serves in the Air Force. He works in Illinois and is in the area for about a week.

“I build buildings and tear (them) down,” he said.

Julia Drown, Leah’s mother, said Leah knew her uncle was coming home some time this week and said Friday it would be “cool” if he came to surprise her at school. Josiah said Julia proposed the idea to him, and he thought it was great.

Millie Michener, the secretary in the elementary school office, said Leah’s mother called about the visit Tuesday morning, and she thought it was neat they were going to surprise Leah, a girl she described as a “sweetheart.”

Leah and her cousin, Mason Chapman, a Seneca East first-grader, ride four-wheelers with their uncle. Mason said he knew his uncle would go to school because his mom had said he might see him there.

“I did,” he said.