Two students got a pleasant surprise last week when a familiar face walked up to them at school.
U.S. Marine Pfc. Ethan Johnson, brother of Eaton Elementary School’s Adalyn Franklin, 10, and North Middle School’s Reece Franklin, 11, visited Oct. 1. The two hadn’t seen their brother since April.
Johnson graduated Sept. 30 from aviation mechanics training in Virginia and boarded a plane for home.
“We flew him in late after Adalyn and Reece were asleep and we hid him downstairs in his bedroom,” mother Jennifer Franklin said. “Luckily, they didn’t go down there. We got them up to school and everything without them knowing he was in the house.”
When they saw him, each rushed to Johnson for a hug with tears in their eyes.
“It made me happy just seeing how excited they were because I knew it had been hard on them and stuff,” Johnson said.
Time away from their brother had been difficult.
“Both of them have had a really hard time,” Franklin said. “He left in January for boot camp and he was able to come home on leave after he graduated boot camp in April, but he’s not been home since then.
“They were unaware that he was ever going to get to come home again, so for them to even have such a short amount of time is huge for them,” she added. “Of course, we’ll try to plan some trips out to Arizona and stuff and he’ll get some leave, hopefully, in the next three years, but with the military you never know.”
Adalyn and Reece were able to write their older brother.
“During boot camp and during MCT, at those points in training they are not allowed cellphones, they can’t email, they have no access to the outside world whatsoever,” Franklin said. “We’re not allowed to send care packages or anything like that, it’s just strictly written snail mail, that’s it, and she would write or draw pictures, write letters to him, tell him everything that’s going on. … (Adalyn) got her class together and when he did come home from boot camp on leave they had a big snack basket for him with all goodies and stuff. It was really cute.”
Johnson, 19, is a 2017 graduate of Lenoir City High School. He left Monday for Yuma, Ariz.
“I thought I was going to keep it together because I already cried when I saw him the night before we picked him up from the airport and stuff,” Franklin said. “Younger children, they can’t always process emotionally or verbally what they’re going through, so to see six months of built-up emotion it breaks your heart, but it makes your heart happy at the same time to be able to do that for them. He was able to have the opportunity to come home.”