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.little Ball
    Fayette's Demetrious Whiteside (left)Skylar Lester attempt to keep the ball from going out of bounds during Morenci's recent basketball tournament for fourth and fifth grade teams. Morenci's Andrew Schmidt stands by.
  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • 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.

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