BUNKER HILL — David Coleman kept everyone at Maconaquah Elementary waiting a little longer than expected Tuesday afternoon.
Visitors passed through the elementary school office, but there was no sign of the 2020 Maconaquah grad everyone was waiting on.
2:30 p.m. came and went. What had been planned for a while quickly became a time crunch. Students were dismissed at 3:15 p.m.
Maconaquah School Corporation Superintendent Jamey Callane paced quickly, darting in and out of the school building, waiting for Coleman’s arrival while balancing end-of-the-day responsibilities.
“We’ll make it work one way or another,” Callane said as he walked out the front door.
A little after 3 p.m., Coleman and his mother, Robin Newsome, arrived. Though Coleman was supposed to be there before 2:30 p.m., a crash on Indiana 26 delayed his commute.
“This is stressful,” Coleman said. “I haven’t been in this building in a long time.”
Coleman surprised his mom earlier in the day, home for the first time since enlisting in the Marine Corps last year. Newsome hadn’t seen her son since Dec. 6, 2020.
Dressed in his service uniform, Coleman waited near the entryway, hidden so his little sister, Aleigha, wouldn’t immediately see him.
Students dismissed right on time. As Aleigha’s class made it down the hallway, everyone took their places, cameras and phones in hand.
Aleigha saw Robin first and approached her before being directed to her left — to her big brother.
Coleman held out his arms. Their first hug in nearly a year. Then a smile. And then an even bigger hug.
Through a whirlwind of emotions, Aleigha was certainly surprised.
The 8-year-old was short of words but did say, “yeah,” when Robin asked her if she was happy.
The group paused for pictures in the hallway.
“Your sister is super proud of you, sir,” said Samantha Ward, Aleigha’s teacher.
Coleman had been stationed in California for training. He arrived back in Indiana on Nov. 19, staying a few days with his girlfriend in Indianapolis.
“That’s an understatement,” Coleman said when asked if he’s glad to be home. “It’s been a trip.”
Circumstances, including COVID-19, did not allow Coleman any type of leave.
“I had to wait until I was done with my schooling to come home,” he said.
Now that he’s back, he has a lot of catching up to do.
“It’s hectic,” Coleman said. “Everyone is trying to make plans.”
He paused for a moment when asked what he’s most looking forward to about being home. Family? Thanksgiving food? His own bed?
Coleman responded, “normality,” explaining that for the past 11 ½ months, he’s lived the military life.
“I’m ready to relax a little bit,” he said.