WATERLOO — Chris Reeves’ fellow sixth-grade teachers at George Washington Carver Academy wanted to be supportive when his son, Jonah, deployed to Iraq in January with the U.S. Army.

That was particularly true of instructional strategist Chris Peck.

“I had talked about him last year when he deployed,” said Reeves, from where his son is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. Jonah’s infantry unit was sent to Mosul, Iraq, and returned to Fort Bragg in September.

Peck told Reeves she would pray for his son every day and wanted to meet the 21-year-old after the nine-month deployment ended.

“That was the goal,” said Reeves. They discussed sharing a meal with the sixth-grade staff. But Peck wanted to get the students involved, as well.

So when Jonah, home on leave, came to Carver on Monday, the school’s sixth-graders were assembled to meet him in the commons. They had decorated the stage in red white and blue and waved small American flags.

Jonah and his dad were seated on stage along with his mom, Nicki, and sister, Emma. A group of band students gathered to perform. It was all more than the soldier expected.

After Jonah told the students where he had been deployed, Assistant Principal Sheena Canady presented him with a school T-shirt. “Let’s give Jonah a big round of applause,” she said.

Students were then treated to a special meal while sixth-grade staff ate with Jonah and his family in the teacher’s lounge, where flag posters and signs made by the children were hung.

“We were all worried,” said Peck, when Jonah was deployed. “Then when he came back, I really feel like we don’t honor our people. He’s awesome to go there.”

She noted students were “really excited to know a soldier” and said it was important for them to honor Jonah.

The 2015 graduate of Janesville High School has 11 months left in his three-year commitment with the Army. Part of Jonah’s reason for taking leave is to decide if he wants to continue in the Army after the initial commitment ends.

But the focus Monday was on honoring his willingness to serve. The event was “really nice, nice surprise,” said Chris Reeves. “Everyone played their part. It’s really sweet.”