WATCH: Surprise Marine homecoming as local school pays tribute to those in uniform

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NEWBURY, Ohio-- A Geauga County school paid tribute to those in uniform serving the community and country, including with a surprise homecoming by a U.S. Marine.

St. Helen Catholic School honored first responders and those in the military Tuesday.

“We felt it was important to honor those in our community who serve our country, to keep us safe, to be first responders in case of any needs and troubles we have here,” said Sr. Margaret Hartman, principal of St. Helen School.

The ceremony included an honor for former Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland, who retired in January after more than 40 years of service. Retired K9 Midge was by his side.
“I’m not here today as Sheriff Dan, but just Dan,” McClelland said. “Geauga County is a wonderful community to live, more importantly raise a family and this is a very good example of wholesome values.”

Patriotic performances were paired with a solemn tribute to relatives who couldn’t attend because they’re serving in the military.

A sacrifice one family knew well.

“It just so happened to be on the day he came home, so how could we not plan something special?” said Samantha Bell, mother of two St. Helen students whose fiancé made a surprise homecoming during the ceremony.

Marine Sgt. Dan Richter returned after several months serving at Camp Pendleton in California, making the second grader Mykaela Cox and preschooler Tre Cox very happy.
“It was pretty great,” Mykaela said. “Because I haven’t seen him in a while.”

Richter said he couldn’t find the words to describe the feeling of seeing the kids again.
“I've only been home for a few hours so I can't wait for tonight to have it actually sink in,” he said. “It was a beautiful tribute they did here.”

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