Soldier surprises 6th grade students with visit

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 30, 2010

A sixth-grade study unit in letter-writing at Andalusia Middle School has evolved into a club, Students Supporting Soldiers, and lots of mail going back and forth across the ocean.

Friday, a soldier who has been on the receiving end of those letters and care packages, surprised the students with a visit.

Sixth grade teacher Candy Parker explained that students wrote letters to veterans as part of the study unit, and then began corresponding with her brother-in-law, Allen Brown, who is on active duty in Iraq as a member of the Alabama National Guard.

“We’ve baked cookies, we had a booth at the fair to raise money for shipping, and we’ve sent all kinds of things,” she said.

Brown is her brother-in-law, so her students shipped packages to him and he shared with soldiers in his unit.

“A lot of them have received letters back from the soldiers,” Parker said.

When Brown, who is home on leave, visited Friday afternoon, he fielded lots of questions. He is part of a National Guard unit from Tallassee, specializing in transportation.

Stationed north of Baghdad, he shares a small, five-room house on base with nine other soldiers. His journey home involved a helicopter ride to another base, where he waited for a day, took a military flight to Kuwait, waited another half day, then flew 14 hours to Atlanta.

In answer to the students’ questions, he explained that his unit travels in a convoy with heavy escort. Travel is slow, and if anyone has trouble, before he can get out of his vehicle, a security truck first must pull alongside him.

The lowest temperature he’s encountered is 45 degrees at night, to a high of 130 degrees in the day.

On base, soldiers have access to a Pizza Hut, Popeye’s and Taco Bell.

“But the food doesn’t taste the same as here,” he said.

When he receives a package from AMS, he shares it with other soldiers. All of the items are appreciated, he said, especially canned food, cookies and wipes.

When he’s not working fulltime as a soldier, Brown is employed by Airgas South in Montgomery, where he and his wife, Karen Summerlin Brown, live. He is the son-in-law of Marcia and Claude Summerlin of Andalusia.