For Sami Drollinger, nothing says love like the arms of her big brother.
That, anyway, seemed clear to anyone standing nearby last Friday when the Kuna High junior came around a corner in the school’s hallway to greet a surprise cooked up by her family.
The shock itself seemed to propel her forward, and once she got her arms around her brother, clad in his U.S. Army fatigues, stronger and more accomplished than last she’d seen him, Sami didn’t let go for a long, long time.
And then, the truth: Jacob had flown in the night before and spent the night at home – without her knowledge – so he could surprise her at school Friday.
For Jacob, enlistment in the army has changed how he feels about his future and how he feels about himself. For a while, even high school graduation seemed a bit iffy.
“I used to just stand up and walk out of my classes if I didn’t want to be there,” he said, adding that he “didn’t want to be there” most of the time.
But with some support and encouragement – he and his family both credit KHS career counselor Kathy Purin, who supported Jacob as his drive to graduate early kicked into full gear.
He collected his diploma in January 2011 and headed for the army.
These days, he said, he’s better than he’s ever been. He’s recently won several battalion awards, he’s becoming a leader and learning every day about who he is and where he’s going.
But for Sami, that’s the problem. In January, Jacob is going to Afghanistan. He’s not afraid. He believes if he’s going to live in a free county he better be willing to fight for it. He better deserve it.
But he knows his sister is worried.
“We haven’t always been close,” he laughs. “We used to fight all the time. We were fist-to-cuff, throwing each other around the room, always beating each other up.”
Their mom, Melissa Drollinger, was part of the big surprise Friday, as was their dad, Brad Drollinger.
“Sami was a freshman when Jacob was a senior,” Melissa said. “He had to take her with him when he went to school every morning, and at first, he didn’t even want her in his truck.”
But it was those morning rides, Melissa said, where she first began to see change as her kids began to grow up and realize the importance of family.
And now, with Jacob headed to a far away land, the bond has strengthened. It’s something Melissa understands, too.
“There’s always that fear,” she said. “Of course I worry. But he’s doing what he wants to do and he’s doing really well at it. We’re not going to do anything but support him.”