Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Langston Chapel Elementary School
The faculty, staff and students at Langston Chapel Elementary School have adopted the Soldiers of 3-69 Armor Battalion. They began their concerted support before our last deployment to Iraq in 2005. LCES is located in Statesboro, GA not too far from Fort Stewart. Mrs. Cindy Bozeman, a kindergarten teacher at the school, contacted me at the beginning of our deployment this year and expressed a desire that their students continue their support of sending letters, drawings and cards to our Soldiers.
I take the children's letters and drawings with me out to the Soldiers at our combat outposts and joint security sites. More than once I've noticed these drawings and letters hanging in Soldiers' living areas. As you might imagine, Soldiers can be rather unkind and rude with one another from time-to-time; developing a tough skin can be essential to getting by in combat. As I watch Soldiers read and share with one another what these children have written and created for them, I witness pure delight on their faces. It seems to help them remember simpler times, easier times--maybe when they were home with their own children (those with families of their own) or perhaps they remember when they themselves were in elementary school. I am including a few pictures of our Soldiers reading these letters. They want the students of Mrs. Bozeman and her fellow teachers to know how much they mean to them. One letter or drawing brings an awful lot of happiness with it.
Because I am so thankful for what they do for our Soldiers, I offered to visit Ms. Bozeman's class during my two weeks of R&R (I checked with Dawn before doing so, of course). They were excited for my visit, then asked if I wouldn't mind speaking to the other classes as well. When they told me I was invited to bring my family, I couldn't resist. The class visit had turned into a school assembly. The students had shown their patriotic spirit by wearing red, white or blue. I had prepared a slide presentation of our Soldiers in Iraq complete with pictures of where our Soldiers lived and worked, local wildlife like camels, camel spiders and scorpions, and some of the jobs our Soldiers do; I even showed them a picture of our burn barrels and makeshift latrines to which they gleefully exclaimed, "eeeewwwwww!" 700 children can be quite loud. (Many of the fun pictures I shared with them are included in various posts below.) When I finished, I answered a few questions, and then the children sang a beautiful song for me about peace.
I got to meet a few of Ms. Bozeman's fellow educators, their principle, Dr. Doty, and Steve Champion, an executive at their Local Wal-Mart who supports the school and their support of us (pictured together with me and Dawn). The children's admiration of me was palpable; I felt like a rock star. Dawn is a former educator herself. Last year we decided to homeschool Benjamin--a difficult, but a prayerful decision. So I was anxious to observe Benjamin's behavior while we visited the school. Would he display regret or social uneasiness? I was slightly nervous in this regard. It was amusing to me that he was visibly amazed that hundreds of children his own age were so interested in his dad. I like to think he was proud of me. At any rate, the visit exceeded both my and Mrs. Bozeman's expectations. The day was a highlight of my family's R&R.