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Boykins soldier makes surprise return home

BOYKINS, Va. – Kisha Watford’s two children didn’t notice that she had placed two sets of towels in the bathroom after doing the laundry.

They also didn’t pay much attention to the fact that she had been listening to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

But it all came to light on Dec. 25 when 10-year-old Kevin and 12-year-old LeAndra were surprised by a visit from their dad, who has been stationed in Baghdad.

The irony of it is Kevin received a recent assignment in Julie Herbert’s TAG (Talented and Gifted) class at Meherrin Elementary School in Boykins.

He was to write a short essay on the topic, “If You Could Give One Gift to the World…”

Said Kevin, “I wrote about how my gift would be world peace because my dad was in Iraq.”

He continued, “I wrote what it would be like if the World Trade Center weren’t bombed. If it hadn’t have happened, we wouldn’t be at war. All the soldiers would be back home for the holidays.”

The fifth-grader may not have quite achieved world peace, but he did get a Christmas present that money can’t buy.

Kisha knew shortly after Thanksgiving that her husband, LeAndrew, was trying to make it home for the holidays, but was asked not to tell the kids in case his plans fell through.

“At first I had planned on coming home in February,” said LeAndrew. “It’s normally very difficult to get home during the holidays. At Thanksgiving I got really homesick and I asked if I could come home.”

Sgt. 1st Class LeAndrew Watford left in February to go to Wisconsin in preparation of his duty in Baghdad. He has been there for six months.

He is an independent duty medical technician working in Health Affairs in the Army.

Besides teaching medical courses to Iraqi medics, he “goes wherever the need is.”

Kisha said she explained to the children that their dad was sending a gift that had to come through Customs.

“I thought it was going to be a baby camel,” said LeAndra, holding onto her stuffed one. “But my friends at school kept telling me (the gift) might be my dad.”

“I closed my ears because I didn’t want to get my hopes up,” Kevin said. “I didn’t think they could fit a camel through the place where they send the luggage.

“(When I saw my dad) I thought it was a dream,” he said, “because one time I dreamed he came home for Christmas.”

Said LeAndra, “He kept pinching himself.”

Kevin said he couldn’t think of anything else he wanted for Christmas now that his dad is home.

LeAndrew will get to spend time with his family until the third of January.

He and his wife’s families live in Bertie and Hertford counties, where the Watfords are originally from.

Besides being homesick over the Thanksgiving holiday, LeAndrew said he received more inspiration to come home from members of the community.

“Mike Hazelton with Newsoms Baptist Church, Boykins Fire & Rescue and Meherrin Elementary sent me letters and packages,” said the father. “Ashley Musselman inspired the Children’s Church at Newsoms Baptist to write. I needed to get back to see everyone else, too.”

Kevin asked his dad what he wanted for Christmas as they sat together in front of the Christmas tree.

“Just to be here is enough. I don’t want anything else,” he said.

(Wendy Walker is a staff writer with the Tidewater News in Franklin, Va., a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.)