Reunited, to student cheers and applause

Reunited, to student cheers and applause

Nicholas Tumelty Mathis, home early from Army Basic Training in Fort Benning, Georgia, hugs his cousin Amy and sister Megan at Saint Mary School, Vineland, on Dec. 23. Below, the soldier embraces his mother, Colleen.
Photos by Alan M. Dumoff

The best gift that 12 year-old Megan Mathis received this past Christmas wasn’t found under the tree on Dec. 25; it was found in the school gym of Saint Mary School, three days earlier.

While rehearsing with the Vineland students for their Christmas pageant on the afternoon of Dec. 22, the seventh grader was surprised by her older brother, Nicholas Tumelty Mathis, home early from Army Basic Training in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Mathis, 18, a 2011 graduate of Saint Mary’s, was accompanied by his parents, Brian and Colleen, when he walked into the school gym as music teacher Toni Burdey led rehearsal. Leaping off the stage, Megan ran into the arms of her older brother, whom she thought wouldn’t be home until the weekend.

As the school community applauded and cheered the reunion, Carol Kirchman, the school advancement director, introduced the special guest.

“Nicholas was one of those students at Saint Mary’s that you always remember; he was always smiling,” she recalled.

The 18-year-old was scheduled to be home with family for two weeks, after which he will return to his training to become a Cavalry Scout.

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