GREENVILLE – Greenville High School junior Chloe Mitchell’s Christmas wish has come true.
During her lunch hour on Tuesday, Chloe, who has a brother stationed at Ft. Irwin in California, thought she was being interviewed by the interactive media class for their Veteran’s series.
She became emotional and teary-eyed, when asked why she believed it’s important to support veterans and active duty service members during the holidays and if there was one thing she could tell her brother, what would that be?
After a couple minutes, Chloe regained her composure and started to answer the question, looking up just in time to see her big brother, U.S. Army PV2 Derrick Smith stroll into the high school’s cafeteria, followed by their mother, Erin Mitchell.
“I thought it wasn’t real, that it was a dream,” Chloe said of her first thoughts when she saw her brother walking toward her.
Mom Erin Mitchell, who had to sneak out of the house overnight Monday to pick up her son from Dayton International Airport, said it’s been difficult keeping the secret from her daughter, adding that Chloe thought her Christmas gift was going to be a trip to visit him in California or maybe another trip – maybe a car.
“She had a million guesses,” Erin said of her daughter’s curiosity about the holidays. “But this isn’t one of them.”
Aided by GHS Navy Junior ROTC Instructor Chief Stephen Eldred, the surprise was almost three months in the making and is PV2 Smith’s first visit home following his graduation from GHS this past summer and leaving for boot camp.
“You can’t be any more proud as a teacher than to have one of your students do something for your country,” Chief Eldred said of his former student’s service.
The family moved to Greenville last school year from Virginia, where PV2 Smith also was enrolled in the ROTC program.
He plans on making the Army a career and is eager to take courses to learn all he can about leadership and his chosen specialty as a demolitionist.
Chloe said she’s considering becoming an OBGYN and has begun looking at colleges with The Ohio State University at the top of the list.
But for now, spending the next 10 days together to celebrate family and Christmas is all that’s on the Mitchell/Smith family’s things-to-do list. Since he left a few months ago, the siblings had to make do with texting as their main form of communication.
After the big lunchtime reveal – which drew a round of applause from students gathered for lunch – Chloe decided she was going to take the rest of the day off from classes.
The threesome had some more surprises planned. Erin’s parents, Joe and Kathy Mitchell, and Derrick and Chloe’s younger brother, Caleb, a seventh-grader at Greenville Middle School had no idea their grandson and brother was home for Christmas.
“I’ve missed all my family,” PV2 Smith said. “I’m happy I get to see them.”
And to Chief Eldred for his help putting the surprise together, PV2 Smith said: “Thank you for everything you’ve done. I appreciate it very much.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Chloe Mitchell wipes away a tear after hugging her brother, PV2 Derrick Smith after he surprised her during lunch at GHS. (Gaylen Blosser photo)