ELLENBURG — Jackie Champagne-Whelden’s students at Northern Adirondack Central School got a special surprise recently, when Army Sgt. Kelsie Bradish-Flowers visited them.
Last year, the second-, third- and fourth-grade students, including Carrie Daneille, 10, wrote letters to Bradish-Flowers while she was deployed in Afghanistan.
She is now on a two-week leave from Fort Bragg, N.C., and recalled what it was like to get letters from the students.
“It’s not like here, where you can send a text message,” she said. “We have no contact to the outside world, and then you get a big envelope full of some pretty funny, cute letters from little kids.
“It made me laugh, and it brightened my day.”
She shared the letters with some of the other soldiers.
“And we all got a good kick about some of the stuff they write. I would bring them out from my tent and let everyone else read them.”
ACROSS THE GLOBE
Carrie Daneille, who moved to a different school district after the letter-writing project, visited her old school to be there when Bradish-Flowers came to visit.
She and her family had been clients of Family Promise of the North Country in Plattsburgh, a program that assisted homeless families — Bradish-Flowers’s mother, Maureen Bradish, is director there. And one day, Daneille was in her office when the paratrooper phoned her mom from Afghanistan.
Daneille got to talk to Bradish-Flowers on the phone. When she hung up, Bradish remembers, “She said, ‘Is she really in Afghanistan?’”
The world got smaller for the child that day, and when it just happened she was in Champagne-Whelden’s class and so got to write letters to Bradish-Flowers.
Bradish-Flowers said some of the soldiers were surprised to hear there were farms in New York.
She wrote back to the students and told them about her job, and the followup letters she received were full of questions.
“They were all interested in jumping out of airplanes,” she said, “not even the fact that I was at war, but the airplane thing was pretty cool to them.”
Bradish-Flowers was nervous coming into the classroom. She didn’t know what questions the kids were going to ask, but she gracefully talked about her job and what it means to be in the Army and praised the students’ spelling and neatness in their letters.
“We go to war in Afghanistan so we can protect our country, so we can protect America, so you guys can go to school and live normal lives.”
Flowers told students about Meals Ready to Eat, the heat in Afghanistan and how she jumps out of planes.
“It’s a very brave thing for her to do,” Champagne-Whelden said, holding back tears. “It was very emotional.
“It was very exciting and a very big surprise for the children.”
Email Kelli Catana: firstname.lastname@example.org