Air Force major answers 4th-graders’ letters with surprise visit to their school

The serviceman fourth-graders at McKinley Elementary School have been writing letters to stepped out of those pages and into their school at a surprise assembly for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. 

The students thought the gathering was to celebrate the end of another school year when Maj. Joseph Ball appeared -- with one of the flags flown over Iraq during his deployment there as a gift. 

Robert Winegarner, one of the students who wrote to Maj. Ball last year while Ball was deployed to Iraq from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said Thursday's surprise made him really happy. 

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"I said. 'thank you for your service' and asked him questions and stuff," Robert told News Center 7's Gabrielle Enright. 

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Air Force Maj. Joseph Ball with two of the McKinley Elementary students who wrote him letters while he was deployed in Iraq. Ball visited the school as a surprise to the students on Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Gabrielle Enright/Staff)

Maj. Ball said the holiday weekend will be a time for him to remember his grandfather, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. 

This weekend will also be a special time for him, he said, because it feels good to know the students took time out of their schedules to wish him well. 

"I hope they understand what the flag represents," he said. "A free America and that there's a price for that and people volunteer to protect that freedom." 

Air Force Maj. Joseph Ball brought an American flag, framed along with this certificate, to students at McKinley Elementary in Xenia who wrote him letters while he was in Iraq. (Gabrielle Enright/Staff)

The major has been deployed more than a dozen times in his military career. His wife, Vicki, is a teacher at McKinley. 

The flag, which has been placed in a frame along with a certificate, will be displayed at the school.

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