Members of the Exceptional Children’s class at Mount Airy High School are participating in a program to support two soldiers serving country overseas.
According to teacher Jill Brown, she asked her son, Marine LCPL Joshua Brown, if he could think of a way her students could help soldiers.
“I told him I would like for my students to do something to support the community and he suggested I check into programs were we could adopt a soldier,” explained Jill Brown. ” I went online and we were able to participate in the Hugs for Soldiers program and our class, which is small, was able to adopt two soldiers.”
She said because of security concerns, the names of the soldiers cannot be released but she said they are serving in Afghanistan. Her students began by writing letters to the soldiers but have since kept in contact through emails. She said typically, soldiers involved in these projects have no family for support.
“We have learned it is so important to just make them feel that there’s somebody who cares,” said Brown. “I hadn’t realized until this project how big a need there is. For many of these soldiers, a care package like we have put together is the only one they will get while they are there. There’s a lot we take for granted that they don’t have access to there.”
Brown said the packages include items like shampoo, toiletries, cookies, hard candies, magazines, beef jerky, soap, razors and tooth brushes. She indicated that due to budget constraints, the military cannot supply everything soldiers need, such as extra socks. The packages were decorated by Teaching Assistant Lisa Porter. She said EC students as well as other teachers have donated items for the packages. The packages also include issues of The Mount Airy News because the soldiers want to know more about the city.
“My class is composed of exceptional children and one of the things we are trying to do is to get them to understand about community servants and some ways they can help them,” added Brown. “This is something they can do by themselves to make a difference. We want them to understand what it means to help others.”
Students involved in this project include Taylor Beasley, Kayla Hazelwood, Kassie Merwin and Justin Boyles.
“This is a start,” said Brown. “We would like to look at projects like adopting a fireman or policeman to bring in more local interest. It’s to get them to understand they all give us service and support and it’s important to give back.”
Porter said the students have enjoyed corresponding with the soldiers by email. She said they started out writing letters but whenever the soldiers have access to a computer the immediacy of email has a bigger impact.
“We are a small group after all,” said Porter. “It’s sad to see how many want someone to talk to.”
Brown said her son’s involvement with the project was a natural extension of what he wants to do with his life. She said he has graduated Marine’s Corps journalism school and will continue broadcasting school training next. She recalled how Joshua Brown and James Brown II, his grandfather, listened to National Public Radio when he was little. His father, James Brown III, and his father served in the U.S. Army so there is a tradition of service in the family history.
“This is a way for me. as a mom, to work through him (Joshua) choosing this job field. There could be a day sometime when I don’t know where he’ll be.”
Joshua Brown looks forward to his future as a combat correspondent. He said he is learning the importance of accuracy and reporting without bias in his stories. He is already becoming acquainted with many issues military persons face.
“A lot of people forget that many soldiers are single,” said Brown. “There is a proportionally high rate of divorce for those in the military in general. There are Marines and soldiers without a family or anyone to support them. On deployment you need more support. In some of these areas mail is flown in rather that by a truck because of the improvised explosive devices.”
He explained his position will be a PA specialist, whose job includes public speaking and organizing the transport of media to various locations and talk with the media.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.