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Forest Hills sixth-grader gets diploma alongside surprise reunion with military mom

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Posted at 6:02 PM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-29 15:49:19-04

ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A Wilson Elementary School sixth-grader got a surprise that sent him sprinting on his graduation day Thursday.

“I expected to graduate and then just go home,” said Keegan Branam.

But, as he walked up to the podium to receive his certificate, he noticed that familiar green, characteristic of his mother's U.S. Air Force uniform.

He took off sprinting once he realized his mom, Sgt. Katrina Marquardt, was waiting to greet him.

“I was really happy to see her, so I started running,” Branam said.

It’s been eight months since he’s seen his mother in person. Marquardt has been in Afghanistan serving with the Air Force.

“I love this kid with all my heart,” she said. “He’s my only one, and I missed him a ton.”

The little boy is used to being with his mom in Texas, because she is stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls. But when duty called for her to deploy, he had to leave his friends and head to Ohio to stay with family. He started attending Wilson Elementary.

“I was really sad, because I was missing my mom,” said Branam. “I just missed her a lot, and it was just hard. It was really hard.”

He made it through the school year, and sat down with his classmates to go through the graduation milestone without his mom. Behind the scenes, those watching out for him, his teachers and family, prepared the surprise homecoming.

“He had no clue, and we surprised him,” Marquardt said. “He didn't think I was coming home until June!”

Branam said he doesn’t care how they celebrate as long as they’re together.

“It was just really nice to have my mom back,” said Branam.