Student athletes in Layton, Utah, were overwhelmed with emotion when their beloved coach surprised them with an early homecoming from his deployment in Afghanistan.
Andrew Olson teaches history at Northridge High School and has coached football and basketball at the school for about three years.
In the fall of 2018, Olson told his students he would soon be leaving for about a year to serve his country in Afghanistan as a captain in the Utah Army National Guard.
Olson’s announcement left a lasting mark on the boys, who remember the way their coach accepted the deployment without fear or hesitation.
“The minute he got the call he was going to be deployed, he was ready for it with his whole heart,” junior Colby Browning told KSTU. “He was ready to go serve our country and leave his family. He is the man.”
Olson was supposed to be away until October but came home on March 1, a change credited to the U.S. military’s plan to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan.
Olson spent the weekend with his wife, Tina Olson, and their two young boys.
On March 4, Olson was ready to return to school to surprise the rest of his family.
A room full of teenage boys sat at Northridge High and told they were about to hear from a guest speaker.
When Olson walked through the door, the room erupted with excitement at the sight of their beloved coach.
The student-athletes rushed their coach, throwing their arms around him like a child greets a father.
“With being a teacher, coach and in the military, he lives to serve others,” Tina Olson told “Good Morning America.” “He gets the most pride and excitement when he helps people accomplish something.”
Tina Olson knew the high school boys would be thrilled to have their coach back because they know he cares about them.
“He loves them. They’re like his little brothers or kids,” she said. “He’s a tough coach, very stern and expects a lot but I think it helps the kids respect him because they know he does it from love.”
Olson’s commitment to service has taught his student athletes that the toughest fighters are the ones who are willing to serve others.
“He’s taught me so much about hard work and commitment, he showed that he really cared about my team and their success,” high school athlete Aaron Tanner said. “He set a great example by committing to serve our country.”
Olson loved being reunited with his family and students and plans to spend a few weeks at home with his boys before resuming his teaching and coaching job at school.
“It was an emotional day,” Olson said. “I care about those kids a lot and it was humbling to see that reciprocated.”
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