Like every Thursday morning this past school year, soldiers from the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division greeted students with broad smiles as their parents dropped them off, wishing children a cheerful good morning as they entered Lyman Hall Elementary School.
The only difference was the assembly Lyman Hall Elementary faculty and students held to honor their volunteer heroes — military men and women who have become a part of the school’s daily life this academic year.
LHE Principal Claire Blanchard said these troops demonstrated their commitment to the community by assisting students in the classrooms, playing with them at recess and eating with them in the cafeteria. The 6-8 Cavalry soldier volunteers also participated in the school’s annual open house, freedom walk, career day, fall festival and field-day events.
“They’ve been selfless,” Blanchard told students.
During the assembly, a student from each grade level read aloud thank-you notes they had written to their LHE heroes.
Kindergartener Julia Cowart wrote her classroom soldier “entertained us.”
“When we went outside, he asked us if we wanted to go to the Army and we said, ‘Yes!’ And he made us do push-ups,” Cowart said.
First-grader Calib Rodriguez said his classroom’s soldier volunteer taught students how to accept challenges, work hard and stay safe.
Fourth-grader Heather Beers recalled how some soldiers made students laugh.
“Like one who used his phone to cheat on a spelling test; and the one (who) I told I call his Army (uniform) a ‘pickle suit.’”
The soldiers also appeared to gain much from volunteering.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Flowers, who helped organize the LHE volunteers, said his unit plans to return to the school this fall in full force once the 4th brigade returns home from a year-long deployment in support of Operation New Dawn. An advance team of 195 4th Brigade troops returned from Iraq last week.
Flowers, a father of four, said a lot of children in the Liberty County School System have had parents deploy, and seeing soldiers volunteer helps reassure them “that their parents will come home safe.”
“We learn to reach out to the community and you learn to trust soldiers,” Flowers told students.