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Marine pays surprise visit to Mercy High School

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April 6, 2011

ST. LAWRENCE DEANERY — As juniors and seniors left Mother of Mercy High School at the end of the school day on April 1, there was excitement in the air. Most were looking forward to getting ready for their prom but as they approached the senior lobby to head to their cars, they caught on to something else.


Aly Ruch, a senior at Mercy High School, greets her cousin, Lance Cpl. Ben Erdman, as he pays her a surprise visit April 1. (Courtesy photo)

Lance Cpl. Ben Erdman was waiting anxiously with a few family members for his cousin, Aly Ruch, a Mercy senior, to walk through the doors. Ruch was anticipating Erdman’s return home from a seven-month tour in Afghanistan on April 2, just in time for her 18th birthday. What she didn’t realize was that her family was keeping a secret.


Erdman, a 2007 LaSalle High School graduate and member of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, a reserve unit out of Columbus, returned to Ohio on the first day of April and his first stop was at Mercy High School to surprise his cousin and close friend.


As Ruch walked into the senior lobby, she caught sight of her cousin and raced over to hug him and welcome him home amid cheers and tears from students, faculty and family members. Ruch’s parents, Theresa and Spencer, Erdman’s mother, Elizabeth, and his girlfriend, Maria Rolfes, were on hand for the joyful reunion.


“It was a total surprise. I didn’t know what to do,” Ruch said. “I couldn’t stop hugging him.”


She and Erdman both attended St. Martin of Tours School in Cheviot and were close growing up. “He’s an only child, and we always hung out together when we were little,” Ruch explained. “We still hang out together today.”


Her cousin’s tour in Afghanistan was a worrisome time for his family, but they sent care packages and prayed for him, said Ruch, and “did all we could to support him.” Erdman was scheduled to report to Columbus for duty, but will be returning home to Cincinnati each weekend before being discharged this summer, she said, noting that their family held a combined birthday and homecoming celebration for them.


“Having Ben home was the best birthday present I could have received,” Ruch said. “When he graduated from boot camp at Parris Island, I celebrated my 16th birthday with him, so this is sort of a recurring thing for us.”  

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