Local marine comes home to warm welcome from first graders - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Local marine comes home to warm welcome from first graders

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A young tri-state marine is home in Evansville who flew in on Sunday.

Military homecomings are always sweet and this one is extra special for North High School graduate Christopher Russell and a very excited bunch of six-year-olds.

Be he flew across the world, risked his life, and became a marine, Russell smiled on picture day at Vogel elementary.

Today, that little boy with the big grin is a hero and the first graders at Vogel at his alma mater.

They're some of his biggest fans. Their bond began back in October with the help of teacher Rachel Leslie.

"We emailed quite a bit back and forth," says Leslie. "The kids got so excited about hearing from them."

As the weeks passed, the kids learned what Christopher does for fun, what he likes to eat, but most importantly, they learned what he's doing overseas.

To say thank you for that sacrifice and service, Ms. Leslie's class got creative and did some decorating to welcome home their far-away friend.

"We're going to hold it up and just show him," says Joseph Schaffer. "That's the first thing he's going to see when he gets off the plane."

The last few minutes of waiting may have been the toughest and certainly the longest but that big moment, months in the making came Sunday morning.

A marine and his miniature admirers finally meeting face-to-face.

"That's the first thing I wanted to do, give them all a hug, show thank you," says Christopher. "It's a great morale booster and they sent care packages all the time. It just gives you drive to keep going. I loved every minute of it."

Safe to say, the feeling is mutual. This was a mission accomplished.

"I told them, 'You know he will remember you forever,'" says Leslie. "This will always be a memory for him. I think that's the thing they're going to remember this for a longtime as well."

Christopher has a big week ahead of him and he'll be visiting his first-grade friends at Vogel and on Saturday, he's getting married.

Best of luck from all of us here at 14 News.

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