Melanie Chevalier sat through school on Thursday counting down the minutes until the bell rang. Her father, Lt. Col. Andy Chevalier, had just returned from a 10-month tour in Kuwait with the Rhode Island National Guard that afternoon and was awaiting her at home.
Or so she thought.
At around 1:30 p.m., Melanie received quite the surprise when her father entered her third grade classroom – the first time the two had seen each other since before last Christmas.
"It's had its ups and downs," said Chevalier. "Skype has helped a lot, but there's nothing like seeing her in person and holding her and smelling her."
Melanie's classmates have been well aware of her situation and her father's deployment. Last year her second grade class wrote letters and send care packages to her father. In return, Chevalier sent back photos from Kuwait. Stony Lane Principal Edward Ferrario placed them on the wall outside the man office for all to see.
"Stony Lane has been great. The faculty has been great and very supportive,” said Chevalier. “I think it’s helped Melanie and my wife with the separation. I’m very thankful for them.”
Caring for students in military families has been a goal for Ferrario since he took over as principal of the school. At the beginning of each year, the school sends out a form with all students to identify its military families. This year, about 27 to 30 students returned that form.
To honor those families, the Stony Lane’s art teacher (along with several students) painted a patriotic mural on one of the school’s hallway walls. Each student from a military family signed the poster.
As for the Chevaliers, Andy’s return came just in time for two big events – Melanie’s ninth birthday and his 10th wedding anniversary (both next week).