ELKHART — Three months of quietly planning and a six-hour flight from Alaska were worth it for Elkhart-born airman Patrick Yohn, who surprised his family with an unexpected trip home for the holidays.
Patrick and his wife, Nicole, arrived in Elkhart early Friday morning and surprised the Yohn family on Christmas Eve at Country Club Lanes. Bowling on the day before Christmas has been a family tradition for at least 40 years and has always been one of Patrick's favorite family gatherings.
Patrick, 20, joined the U.S. Air Force one year ago and has not been home to Elkhart since spring. He is stationed at the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, where he works in airfield management.
The only people who knew about Patrick's secret homecoming were his parents, his brother and his brother's girlfriend.
“It's been hard because my mother-in-law, his grandmother, kept on asking when we were going to send a box of Christmas presents up to him in Alaska and asking if she could send stuff to him,” said his mother, Dreama Yohn.
Patrick said he had the most difficult time keeping the big secret from his grandfather.
“I think my grandpa may have had some idea a couple of times,” Patrick said. “When he would call, he would say I should see if I could get some leave, but I told him that I wouldn't be able to get leave around Christmas. I told him that it wasn't going to work out.”
Patrick's grandfather, Randy Yohn, was the first person he hugged when he got to the bowling alley.
“I was just bowling up there, thinking about Patrick and how he wasn't here for this,” Randy said. “His mom has one of those iPads, and we were going to call him up here to talk to him through video, and before I knew it, he was coming around the corner, and I couldn't believe it.”
Patrick said he is looking forward to spending time with his family. He will be heading back to Alaska with his wife on Thursday.
“I'm a big family guy,” he said. “I'm glad to just be back and have a little bit of time with my family.”