FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2012
State Public Affairs Officer
Arkansas National Guard
Wooster Elementary calls out the Guard… again ~ 77th Aviation Brigade Soldiers assist with a 5th grade lesson in freedom
WOOSTER, Ark. – The children of Ms. Jennifer Richardson’s fifth grade class were surprised to find a bare floor with no desks in their Wooster Elementary classroom Friday, March 30. The children immediately began an inquisition without realizing their teacher had set the stage for a daylong lesson in freedom.
The curious children spent the entire day trying to answer the question, ‘why do you feel you deserve to have a desk.” Although the kids eagerly tried to answer their teacher, the school day neared its end before the kids could find a solution to the puzzling question. But before the school bell sounded its final ring of the day, a few answers started walking through the door carrying in their desks one by one – uniformed men and women from our nation’s Armed Forces.
“I want you to look around for just a minute,” Richardson told her students as the surprise visit was still sinking in. “Why do you think these men and women are the answer?”
“Because they fought for our country and our freedoms,” sounded the first voice from the crowd of children, still seated on the floor.
“That’s right,” said Richardson. “They were fighting for you, absolutely, so we have these freedoms to come to school, and to have a desk, and to have the opportunity to learn.”
“You have the chance to go home and see your family at night. You have the change to go to church on Sunday if you choose to,” Richardson continued. “We’re very fortunate. Sometimes we get used to that because that’s all we have ever known. That’s just the way we’ve grown up, but it’s not that way everywhere.”
Richardson invited the 20 Soldiers to share their experiences on what life is like in other countries in order to help explain what it means to be free and why they shouldn’t take it for granted. The Soldiers, members of the Camp Robinson based 77th Theater Aviation Brigade, began telling their story one by one as the kids sat listening quietly.
Once the floor was opened for questions, over a dozen hands excitedly flew into the air like an uncontrollable reflex.
When asked about the children of Iraq, Maj. Shawn Keeter explained they were not unlike the kids in this particular classroom except they didn’t have the comforts many Americans take for granted such as clean water, clothing and ample food.
“For most of them, all they ever knew was war,” said Keeter. “Their entire lives, since they were infants, since they were newborns. Their whole lives and all they’ve ever seen and known is war.”
Richardson acknowledged hand after hand that politely popped up in hopes of having the opportunity to ask a question of the Soldiers. And while the experience was unique for the kids, it was déjà vu for their teacher, along with several of the Soldiers.
Richardson first got the idea when she read about Ms. Martha Cothren, a social studies teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock, who was credited with conducting this unconventional lesson in 2005. Richardson contacted the 77th’s Lt. Col. Jason Duvall who then arranged to have a group of his Soldiers participate in their first visit to the school last year.
Since that last visit, Duvall and the majority of the participating Soldiers deployed to Iraq and had only returned home just prior to Christmas 2011. Duvall’s unit, Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 77th Theater Aviation Brigade, was actually the final Arkansas unit to pull out of Iraq.
Now Duvall and his Soldiers found themselves sharing new experiences with a new group of fifth graders, while helping Ms. Richardson continue to teach the same message she taught before.
“This freedom that their giving you is a gift,” Richardson explained to her class. “That’s their gift to you as a citizen of this country. All they ask in return is that you do the best you can with your lives and not take this freedom for granted.”
Thank you Ms. Richardson. You may not where a military uniform, but your service is greatly appreciated.
See photo at right
full cutline -
Maj. Shawn Keeter, administrative officer for the 1st Battalion, 114th Aviation Regiment of the 77th Theater Aviation Brigade, leads the way into the classroom at Wooster Elementary. Keeter and approximately 20 other Soldiers visited with the class to help explain some of freedoms in America that are often taken for granted.
additional photos available - go to ArkansasNational Guard Facebook page