The Forson family: Dawn, Jason, Trent and Alyce

Mantua – Early last week, students and staff at Crestwood Primary School held a school-wide assembly to show their appreciation for local heroes from the military, as well as local police, sheriff’s office, and fire departments.

“The inspiration for our assembly was to welcome Chief Warrant Officer Jason Forson home from an 11-month tour in Afghanistan,” explained CPS Counselor Nikki Johansen. “Dawn Forson, his wife, contacted the school to let us know of his return home from deployment. Mrs. Forson wanted to surprise her kids, Trent and Alyce, at school, so CPS planned to hold a surprise assembly last Friday.” Unfortunately, Officer Forson’s arrival time was pushed back. The special assembly was moved to the following Monday to accommodate his new arrival time, giving the Forsons much-anticipated family time over the weekend.

On Monday, Alyce and Trent were excited to share their dad’s return with their classmates. In addition, the school invited local police, fire, and EMS forces to what became an assembly to recognize local hometown heroes. “As I called to invite our local departments, I could also hear how excited they were to help welcome home one of our very own military heroes,” Ms. Johansen beamed.

As a part of the program, second grade students each wrote a letter to their hero. Several students volunteered to read their letters in front of over 400 classmates at the school-wide assembly. Mantua Village Police Chief Harry Buchert explained, “It’s nice to be recognized for the job we do — I especially enjoyed hearing the kids sing.” Chief Buchert continued, “We were especially pleased to help welcome home Officer Forson, to have the chance to thank him for his service.”

Hiram’s Assistant Fire Chief Brandon Baynes was honored in a letter read by his daughter Leighton. “I’m proud of her for volunteering,” Assistant Chief Baynes shared. “The kids each said a lot of nice things about our military, police, and firefighters. It’s great that they recognize we’re doing a hard job that takes long hours and often means late nights away from our families,” he continued. “It’s nice to be recognized.”

Mantua Police Lieutenant Ken Justus was present with his K-9 partner, Vader. Lt. Justus’s son Andy read a letter he wrote to Vader and his dad. Lt. Justus beamed, “I was very proud of him. He’s always been the shy one at home. For him to stand up and read his letter in front of the entire school was a great accomplishment.” The proud father continued, “I’m thankful for the support of my family with my commitment to Vader. I’m pleased to have such a wonderful and caring family.”

Alyce Forson was the last student to read her letter. After she finished reading, her family shared a video of the moment she and her brother spotted her father, returning Friday evening from nearly a year overseas. It took a few seconds for them to realize their father was actually home. The video stops abruptly when they engulf him in a bear hug. “Daddy’s home,” Dawn Forson marveled off camera.

After the video presentation, Chief Warrant Officer Jason Forson stepped out from behind a curtain with his wife, Dawn, to greet Alyce and Trent, while CPS students and staff cheered along with police, fire, and the community. “Thank you for the warm welcome,” Officer Forson acknowledged the clapping crowd as his children hugged him. “I’d also like to give special thanks to our police and fire departments for what they do every day.” Chief Warrant Officer Forson returned to his family on September 16th, having been deployed last November. He’s with the Army’s 3-238th Aviation Regiment, where he pilots a Chinook Helicopter. His wife, Dawn, serves as a Family Readiness Group Leader for the regiment.