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Former Brentwood student surprises sister, class after military training

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While Veterans Day was several weeks ago, a small gesture by a group of Brentwood students has extended the celebration into December.

The Brentwood Elementary staff has an annual tradition of including former military service members in the school’s Veterans Day recognition. This year was no different as multiple relatives of current Brentwood students spent time visiting classrooms and leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

One active service member that was not able to attend was former Brentwood student Hannah Niemi. She was in the midst of her basic training to becoming a medic in the United States Army.

Rhae Bell, a fifth grade teacher at Brentwood, learned of this fact when Niemi’s mother responded to the school’s invitation for military members to participate. Hannah’s sister, Payton Blankenship, is a student in Bell’s class.

Blankenship and her classmates decided that if Niemi couldn’t make it home to visit, they would send a taste of home to her.

“The class decided it wanted to make cards to encourage her and thank her for her service during her training,” said Bell. “I asked her mom what else she could use there. She said: maybe just a bit of candy, but also things for her downtime, so we sent playing cards and other little things.”

Niemi took full advantage of the gifts in the midst of 10 weeks of training in Oklahoma and another 16 in Texas. She was so appreciative that, once her training was complete, she knew she wanted to express that in person.

Niemi surprised them last Friday with a visit, enjoying many hugs with her sister for the first time since August.

“I wanted to thank you for all the letters, cards, and games you guys sent,” Niemi told the class. “You guys kept us kept us entertained through a lot of long days, meetings, and paperwork.”

She also stayed to answer every question the students had about her training and showed off a few photos from her experience. It was a small token of appreciation for a sibling and a classroom that showed her kindness while she was away from home.

“The kids were thrilled to do this,” said Bell. “They poured their hearts into it.”

 

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