ALGONQUIN – Airman 1st Class Ellie Lapi made a surprise visit to Jacobs High School on Monday morning.
Her ears still were feeling pressure when she arrived at the school after a 15-hour flight from South Korea, she said.
Lapi, of Carpentersville, has been stationed since Aug. 5 in South Korea, where she works as a maintainer with the U.S. Air Force.
She is home on a midtour leave from her station and went on a surprise reunion tour of her own Monday. Lapi started by surprising her sisters – senior Emily Lapi and sophomore Erin Lapi – at the high school during their lunch period.
“I just can’t believe I’m home,” Ellie Lapi said. “Yesterday, I was in Korea in my uniform. It’s unrealistic because most people don’t get to go home during the midtour.”
One of the highlights of her tour so far was attending the men’s U.S. versus Russia hockey game at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
“It was an experience,” Ellie Lapi said. “The stadium was huge.”
Ellie Lapi hadn’t seen her sisters in more than a year, and Erin Lapi said it’s been hard having her sister gone.
“I was surprised because she told me she would be training and sent me a photo,” Emily Lapi said.
Ellie Lapi graduated from Hampshire High School in 2016, and she said she was inspired to join the Air Force because her brothers are in the military.
Christy Lapi, Ellie’s aunt, said it was hard to keep the secret, and she helped her niece plan the surprise for months. Her parents had no idea she was coming home.
Ellie’s mother works at Meijer in Algonquin, and that was the next stop on her reunion tour.
“I think she’s just going to weep,” Christy Lapi said.
Ellie Lapi’s term in South Korea ends in August, and she has 16 days to enjoy her time in Illinois.