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Gehlen teacher thankful for Thanksgiving surprise

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The smiles shared by Melissa 'Mel' Lehmann (left), the Rev. Andrew 'Andy' Sohm (center) and Terry Sohm (right) leave little doubt about the result of the airman's surprise reunion with his family Tuesday. The family gathered following the Thanksgiving Day liturgy Tuesday at St. Joseph Church in Le Mars. The priest's mother, Cherie, was at work at Subway in Le Mars, when her son arrived for the surprise reunion with his family.
Melissa 'Mel' Lehmann said she had expected Tuesday to be a "great, but ordinary day" helping her Gehlen Catholic School first graders ready themselves for Thanksgiving.

Lehmann was suddenly proven wrong.

Mel's brother, the Rev. Andrew "Andy" Sohm, who is captain in the U.S. Air Force made an unexpected trip to Le Mars to be with his family for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Rev. Andrew 'Andy' Sohm, also a captain in the U.S. Air Force and presently stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, N. M., received a welcome Tuesday from his niece, Haley Gries, 5, daughter of Josh and Emily Gries, of Le Mars.
An expression of awe and disbelief registered on Mel's face as she and her students and other worshipers, remained after the Thanksgiving Day liturgy at St. Joseph Church in Le Mars.

Mel's brother, a priest in the Archdiocese of Omaha serving in the Air Force in New Mexico was walking unannounced down the aisle to the church altar.

His planned pre-Thanksgiving arrival had successfully been kept secret from his sister as well as his parents, Terry and Cherie Sohm, of Le Mars.

Terry Sohm admitted to being as surprised as Mel at his son's unexpected appearance Tuesday.

"I'd just talked to him several days ago on the phone and asked if he was coming home for Thanksgiving. His answer? 'No way. I can't leave here,'" Sohm said.

Mel said she was "shocked."

"I don't know if the word is strong enough to describe it," she said."My whole body was in shock. I wanted to run up there and give him a hug, but I didn't feel my body would keep up with me."

Terry's wife, at work at Subway in Le Mars, during the arrival, would "just faint" when she learned later her son was home, her husband said.

Andy's sister put it more strongly.

"As excited as Mother gets she'd have been jumping on the altar," she said with her own excitement still evident.

The Catholic priest described his own reaction to the reunion as "crazy and overwhelming" as his family and those at St. Joseph's extended their welcome.

He said he was appreciative, too, of being able to share the message of his responsibilities "accommodating military troops" who without a priest would be unable to attend a Mass while on duty.

Father Andy said he felt good about sharing God's ability to care for and protect the nation's military members no matter where they might be stationed.

His dad's own military experience as a member of the 185th Air Guard in Sioux City "inspired" his interest in responding to the needs for additional priests in the military, the Air Force captain and priest said.

"What I'm doing now is being given the opportunity to serve and help those sacrificing during their time in the military," Andy said. "It has also allowed me to extend the message of God's love and help to a greater population than just Catholics and given me new challenges in my own life."

Terry said he "is overwhelmed" by the work his son is doing "never having dreamed" Andy would go into the military.

After his Thanksgiving visit home the airman will return to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, home of the 49th Wing of the Air Force's Air Combat Command (ACC).

He is a base chaplain and counselor. He also serves as official chaplain to the base medical team.

His military service is an endorsement rather than a military enlistment.

The Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb., allows for his return to the diocese, if needed or he wishes to return, he said.

In July, Andy will be deployed to the U.S. military base in Qatar, in the Persian Gulf.

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Great story! Thank you for your service to God and to our country's enlisted men Fr. Andy!

-- Posted by working_class_dog on Fri, Nov 23, 2012, at 11:45 AM

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