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A hero's welcome: Biggersville student has surprise reunion

Staff Sgt. Rick Roach surprises his son, Biggersville Elementary School sixth grader Isaiah Roach, during a school assembly Wednesday morning.

Staff photo by L.A. Story

By L.A. Story

BIGGERSVILLE — A Biggersville Elementary School student received a surprise reunion at a Biggersville school assembly Wednesday morning.

During a short assembly held in the Biggersville school gymnasium, students from both Biggersville Elementary School and Biggersville High School gathered to recognize and welcome back Lt. Todd Sheffield, a high school English teacher who has recently returned from deployment.

In a brief address to the assembly, Sheffield said, "I appreciate all of your support and the care packages, it went a long way. Thank you for your support, it's good to be back."

While Sheffield received a hero's welcome, students were unaware they were about to welcome another soldier home, as well.

During the assembly, students and faculty took the opportunity to recognize the BHS Archery Team, who will be traveling to Fulton to compete in the North Half on Thursday.

Also recognized during the program was the Special Olympians who will be competing in Special Olympics on Friday.

The big surprise was disguised as a game called "Guess Who's In The Box."

Moderated by BES Principal Elizabeth White, a group of high school students competed against a group of elementary school students to guess who was in each of three giant boxes.

A microphone was put up to each box and the person inside had to speak three phrases and each group of students had to guess who was in the box.

Students on the gymnasium floor, and in the bleachers, appeared to have great fun making guesses based on the phrases uttered by the individuals in the boxes. However, on the last box, students tried to guess, but White informed them they were all incorrect as she explained that the last box was special, particularly to at least one of the participating BES students.

"Most of you don't know this man, but Isaiah does," said White, just before the box was moved to reveal the hidden person. "Inside this box is Staff Sgt. Rick Roach, Isaiah's father, who is with Army National Guard."

As Staff Sgt. Roach was revealed, his son rushed into his arms for a tearfully joyous reunion.

Isaiah is a sixth grade student at BES, but the soldier also has a fourth grade niece, a second grade niece and a kindergarten nephew attending BES. His homeschooled son, Aaron, 9, was also present.

It didn't take long for Roach to be surrounded and embraced by the children.

Sgt. Roach has been deployed for 381 days with the Army National Guard 155 Armored Brigade Combat Team in Kuwait. Sgt. Roach is in his 34th year of service with the National Guard, according to White. He said he still has two years left in the National Guard and he hopes he has seen his last deployment. He is also an Alcorn County Sheriff's Deputy.

White said the surprise has been in the works for a while as the principal conspired with Sgt. Roach's wife, who is a veteran herself — E5 2nd Class Petty Officer Charis Roach who served for five and a half years in the Navy in Military Intelligence.

"We (the principal and Charis Roach) talked about it for several months, but we weren't certain of the date until the past couple of days," said White. "And, she asked if we could help do a surprise for Isaiah who is very close to his father."

The day was perhaps summed up by Isaiah, whose eyes were bright with happy tears as he said, "It makes me feel so happy that my dad is home."

"This is a special day being part of Biggersville," said White. "It's a special thing to honor those folks in the Armed Forces. They make big sacrifices every day. This is a Biggersville homecoming."