Joy­ous re­union for lo­cal air­man

Kids sur­prised at school

Newark Post - - Front Page - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

Eleven-year-old Jes­sica Gri­eten first got sus­pi­cious when she saw her prin­ci­pal, other school of­fi­cials and mem­bers of the me­dia come into the cafe­te­ria where she and her friends were eat­ing lunch last week.

“I knew some­thing was go­ing on,” the Downes El­e­men­tary School fifth-grader said. “I thought it was for some­one im­por­tant.”

The hub­bub wasn’t for a celebrity, but it was for some­one very im­por­tant to

Jes­sica: her dad, TSgt. John Gri­eten, who was re­turn­ing home from a de­ploy­ment over­seas.

With Jes­sica be­liev­ing he wasn’t due home un­til the week­end, he snuck into the cafe­te­ria and crept up be­hind her to say hello. She turned around, saw him and gave him a big hug.

“I just couldn’t be­lieve he was com­ing home this early,” she said.

The emo­tional home­com­ing at Downes on April 14 was ac­tu­ally the air­man’s sec­ond sur­prise re­union of the day. Ear­lier, he sur­prised his 15-year-old son, Joshua, who is a stu­dent in the REACH pro­gram at Ne­wark High School.

“Every­body, this is my dad,” an ec­static Joshua an­nounced to his class­mates af­ter Gri­eten sur­prised him dur­ing lunch. “I missed my dad so much.”

Gri­eten, a mem­ber of the 166th Air­lift Wing of the Delaware Air Na­tional Guard, spent the last six months in the Mid­dle East serv­ing in sup­port of Op­er­a­tion In­her­ent Re­solve, the United States’ ef­fort to com­bat the Is­lamic State in Iraq and Syria. He has been in the Air Guard since 2007 and served sev­eral years in the Army and Army Re­serves be­fore that. He was thrilled to be re­united with his kids. “There’s no com­par­i­son,” he said. “I’ve been Skyp­ing with them for six months, but there’s noth­ing like re-es­tab­lish­ing the phys­i­cal bond be­tween par­ent and child.”

The home­com­ing sur­prises were co­or­di­nated by Gri­eten’s wife, Ch­eryl, who told him about the plan only a few hours in ad­vance.

“I’ve missed him dread­fully,” said Ch­eryl, who is Joshua and Jes­sica’s step-mother.

John and Ch­eryl Gri­eten, who grew up to­gether and both at­tended Ne­wark High, got mar­ried in June, only a cou­ple months be­fore he de­ployed.

“We’re start­ing our honeymoon all over again,” she said.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

TSgt. John Gri­eten greets his 15-year-old son, Joshua, at Ne­wark High School.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

TSgt. John Gri­eten greets his 11-year-old daugh­ter, Jes­sica, at Downes El­e­men­tary School.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

TSgt. John Gri­eten greets his 15-year-old son, Joshua, at Ne­wark High School.

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