Home for Christmas 2011.12.21

Written by David Green.

It took a little fibbing to pull it off, but Loni Hill got the job done.tom hill

When her girls walked into Morenci’s Pizza Box for lunch Friday, Loni told them to go on over to the adjoining room and get a seat.

When they walked around the corner, something wasn’t quite right, because there stood their father, Thomas Hill, in uniform. The girls—Andrea, Samantha, Sabrina, Mia and Maisy—knew he was coming home on leave from the Army for the holidays, but their mother said it was happening on Tuesday, after Christmas.

The little white lie made for a special early Christmas present.

“I missed you so much,” said one of the stunned twins—Andy and Sammy—as they moved in for a hug.

“I’ve missed you, too,” Tom answered.

Visits home are rare for Sergeant First Class Hill. At noon Friday, he had just completed a long 18-hour bus ride from Camp Shelby, Miss. For most of December he’s been training at Ft. Irwin, Calif., in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. He expects to spend about nine months in the country.

Hill started his military career as a Marine and spent four years with the corps. He joined the Army National Guard in 2000 and has served in Sinai, Egypt, and in Iraq.

The surprise visit with his family was good for him, too, because it took his mind off something that also happened on a Dec. 23. That was the day in 2006 that three members of his company plus an interpreter died in a blast from an improvised explosive device in the unfriendly city of Baghdad. Two other soldiers in his company died in November that year.

SFC Hill has his family for a few days to push away those dark memories before he heads back to work.

Loni was pleased that she pulled it off, saying that she almost spilled the beans more than once.

“You said it was going to be Tuesday,” said one of the girls.

“I told you I had to pick up a present this morning,” Loni said

  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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