Marine mom on leave from Afghanistan surprises children at school

alopez@macon.comApril 15, 2014 

FORT VALLEY -- Sgt. Keisha Dennis spent the last nine months at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. She returned home late Monday and surprised her two children at their school Tuesday.

Reunited, Dennis adjusted her son’s collar as his teacher told her about what his kindergarten class did earlier in the day.

“I’m not staying forever,” Dennis told her son. “I’m staying for a while.”

Dennis will spend the next 20 days with her family before reporting back to her command, where she works in administration, processing orders and awards. Afghanistan is hot, dry and dusty, but her mission supporting the drawdown of troops there is going well, she said.

About a dozen relatives met her and her husband Tuesday afternoon to participate in the surprise at Hunt Elementary School.

“I’m just glad to be home,” she said.

Clad in her Marine Corps combat utility uniform and clutching stuffed animals, Dennis met her daughter at the door of her first-grade classroom. All the other students knew instantly who she was.

“It’s Gabriella’s mom,” they said.

An adult asked, “And where has she been?”

“Afghanistan,” the first-graders responded in unison.

Dennis has served in the Marines for more than nine years. She said she had never been deployed away from her husband and kids for an extensive period of time before being sent to Camp Leatherneck. The family has been communicating for the last nine months through Internet video chatting applications and by exchanging letters, she said.

“They do truly miss her,” said Dennis’ husband, Jarvis. “I miss her as well.”

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 478-256-9751.

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