AES 4th graders meet soldier ‘pen pal’

Published 10:59 pm Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Susan Russell’s class often says the Pledge of Allegiance, and this week they had the opportunity to meet one of the soldiers who fights for their right to pledge that flag.

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Warren Brown, with the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky., visited Russell’s fourth grade class at Andalusia Elementary School on Wednesday. He entertained the students with stories of serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, and answering their questions about his life as a soldier in the U.S. Army.

Russell’s class has sent letters to Brown, who has been serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan, and who responds to their letters by e-mail. Wednesday was the students’ first face-to-face meeting with their soldier pen pal.

“This is really cool,” said AES fourth grader Dantrece Davis. “He served for our country and I’m glad he does, because he protects us from danger. I want to be just like him when I grow up.”

Brown said receiving the children’s letters in Afghanistan brought a smile to his face and the faces of his fellow soldiers.

“It’s great to get a chance to meet these kids,” said Brown, who is from the Pleasant Home area and has been in the military for nine years. “They’ve sent me two big envelopes with their pictures, and cards and everything, and it’s always wonderful to get those letters from them. They all love you, and it’s a nice surprise to get another package from them. It cheers me up every time.”

Russell said her daughter, Sarah, is an old friend of Brown’s and the two had been communicating by e-mail for six months. That gave Russell the idea to suggest that her class should also write letters to the soldier.

“I feel like we got as much out of it as he did,” she said. “We got to work on our letter writing and made him birthday cards for his birthday, and the kids made him posters to welcome him to our classroom. In this technology age, it seems like letter writing is kind of a forgotten art; people don’t send thank-you notes when they should and that sort of thing.

“I hope that my students enjoyed writing these letters and they’ll continue to do it as they get older.”

Exchanging letters was fun enough for the fourth graders, but it was an even bigger surprise to get the chance to meet Brown in person.

“You usually don’t get a chance to meet somebody like this,” AES fourth grader Ashlan Kelley said. “It was fun writing the letters, but when Mrs. Russell said we were going to meet him as well, then that was even cooler.”

Brown particularly excited the students when he told them about flying as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot.

“That was the coolest part, asking him what it was like to fly the Black Hawk,” Dantrece Davis said. “I want to fly one when I get older. I also really liked his uniform and his boots.”