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Soldier surprises little brother at school

November 2, 2011
By J.W. Johnson , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

MOUNDSVILLE - After being stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for the past 14 months, Justin Raymer is excited to spend the next month at home. But he isn't the only one excited about his extended stay in Moundsville.

On Tuesday, Raymer, 21, surprised his 6-year-old brother Alex at McNinch Primary School, taking time to speak with Alex's kindergarten class and answer questions about his time in the U.S. Air Force as a senior airman.

A 2008 graduate of John Marshall High School, Raymer joined the Air Force in September 2008 and has had little opportunity to spend time with his family and younger brother since then. After going through basic training and learning the ropes of helicopter repair and engineering at his Arizona base, Raymer was deployed to Afghanistan in December 2009. He served a four-month stint there before returning to Arizona in April 2010.

Article Photos

Justin Raymer hugs his little brother, Alex, at McNinch Elementary School on Tuesday.

Although he was able to return home and see Alex in September 2010, the visit was short and Raymer was again deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in December. He returned to the United States a few weeks ago and, after going through standard procedures, was able to return to Moundsville on Monday for the first time in 14 months.

However, because he had not seen his younger brother in such a long time, Raymer wanted to surprise Alex.

He arrived home early Tuesday morning and waited patiently while Alex got ready for school. On Tuesday afternoon, Raymer hid in another room as Alex's teachers asked Alex and his classmates about the reason for Veteran's Day, which the school will observe next week.

After Raymer entered the room and shared a long hug with Alex, he took questions from the students and described his time in Afghanistan. He compared the school systems of the the two countries and reminded the students they are lucky to have such great facilities and teachers.

"The children here have a lot more opportunities than the children there," he told them. "But we are working to fix that."

Alex said he was excited to see his brother and asked whether the two could play Nintendo Wii and whether Raymer could pick him up at the bus stop. When asked what other plans he had for the month his brother will be home, Alex gave a simple answer.

"I plan on being best friends," he said.



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