HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — The Georgia National Guard's first black female pilot got a surprise send-off Friday.
Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach was in Henry County, where students packed the gym at a local elementary school to celebrate Lt. Andrea Lewis.
The event was set up by Lewis' twin sister, who is a kindergarten teacher at Stockbridge Elementary School.
Lewis had no idea that when she walked through the doors at the school, she would be greeted by a gym packed full of students.
"I can't believe it. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe they did this all for me,'" Lewis said.
Lewis made history the first time two years ago when she got her wings and became the first black female pilot in the Georgia Air National Guard.
Now, she'll also be the first to deploy to active duty.
Lewis took a few minutes to encourage students to pursue their own passions.
"Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it," Lewis said.
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Lewis is the daughter of a Marine pilot who then became a commercial pilot for American Airlines. Her mother was a Delta flight attendant.
She graduated from Tucker High School and the University of Georgia.
Lewis now flies modified 737s with the 116th Air Control wing out of Robins Air Force Base in Middle Georgia.
She'll be flying aerial surveillance missions using side-looking radar to track positions behind enemy lines.
The principal of Stockbridge Elementary School said this is a real-life lesson for her students and a chance to see history being made in front of their eyes.
"There are things we can tell them, but to be able to show them, it's amazing," Cynthia Jewell said.
Lewis' sister, Victoria, said it's hard to know she is leaving, but she's excited to see her sister's dreams take flight.
"I'm just trying to keep it together, because it's been really hard, but this moment has made it worth it," she said.
After Lewis spoke to the crowd, she took time to take pictures and greet students.
For Lewis, having the support of her community is everything.
"I really do feel prepared to go out there, and having support of everyone makes me comfortable and more excited about going over there," Lewis said.
Lewis is not allowed to say where she'll deploy to or how long she will be gone for national security reasons.
Cox Media Group