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

  • Play Practice
    DRAMA—Fayette schools, in conjunction with the Opera House Theater program, will present two plays Friday night at the Fayette Opera House. From the left is Autumn Black, Wyatt Mitchell, Elizabeth Myers, Jonah Perdue, Sam Myers (in the back) and Lauren Dale. Other cast members are Brynn Balmer, Mason Maginn, Ashtyn Dominique, Stephanie Munguia and Sierra Munguia. Jason Stuckey serves as the technician and Trinity Leady is the backstage manager. The plays will be performed during the day Friday for students and for the public at 7 p.m. Friday.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.rover
    CLEARING THE WAY—Road crossings in the area on the construction route of the Rover natural gas pipeline are marked with poles and flags as preliminary work nears. Ditches and field entry points are covered with thick planks in many areas to support equipment for tree clearing operations. Actual pipeline construction is progressing across Ohio toward a collecting station near Defiance. That segment of the project is expected to wrap up in July. The 42-inch line through Michigan and into Ontario is scheduled for completion in November. The line is projected to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.
  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • 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).
  • 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.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.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

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