Gatesville Elementary School Choir honors the 166th Aviation Brigade
Soldiers from Division West's 166th Aviation Brigade enjoy the second- and third-grade choir performance at Gatesville Elementary school Dec. 18. Gatesville Elementary is the 166th Aviation Brigade's adopted school. (Photo by Capt. Tania Hummel, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)

GATESVILLE, Texas -- There's no better way to get into the Christmas spirit and shed all semblances of Scrooge and the Grinch than listening to children sing Christmas carols.

It was such Christmas spirit that brought smiles across the faces of even the stoic of Soldiers from the 166th Aviation Brigade Dec. 18.

166th has the honor of being the military sponsor to the second- and third-graders of Gatesville Elementary School.

"We drove thru Gatesville when I first got out here and saw our name on the school's sign. I asked 'what do we do to earn it?' I want us to be part of that school. Whenever they ask for help, we will respond and support," said Col. Kevin A. Vizzarri, the 166th's brigade commander.

Normally, every Friday, Soldiers from the 166th go to the school to have a special lunch with select students. "The kids just love to see the Soldiers," said Ms. Jody Janek, a school counselor and liaison for 166th. "It's like having rock stars here on campus. It's a very special event to get to eat with our Soldiers."

"I want these kids to have role models, but it's good for us too," explained Vizzarri. "When we see the eyes of a child and how they see us, we up our game. We get as much out of going to lunch with them as they get out of us going there."

Based on good behavior, the students put their names in a bucket to be chosen to eat with the Soldiers that week. Two tables are decorated and the selected "winners" get a special ticket to allow them to eat at the Soldiers' table. "It's that human touch and that connection between the students and the Soldiers," said Janek. "They get more out of the one-on-one."

But the unit wanted to do something special for Christmas. "I wanted to do something for Christmas because Gatesville Elementary is a part of our family at 166th, and Christmas is a time for family," Vizzarri explained.

When Ms. Janek was approached, she and Pamela Bone, the school's principal, decided that the school choir's Christmas concert was the perfect venue.

"We could do all kinds of things [but] we wanted to do something to let them know how we feel and how grateful we are," said Bone. "This concert is the closest thing I could see to let them into our hearts and share the Christmas spirit. The program is the epitome of Christmas spirit."

This is the school's first choir ever put together. Ms. Mitzi Smith, a special education teacher, approached Principal Bone at the beginning of the school year with the idea. "[She] wanted to be the choir director and have a children's choir to put on a Christmas program. We don't normally have a choir -- this is a first," Bone said.

The kids who volunteered to be in the choir worked hard to prepare the half-dozen songs performed. "Mondays and Tuesdays they prepared after school," said Bone.

The Soldiers' arrival was a complete surprise to the inaugural choir. "We didn't tell them," said Janek. "It was a surprise and their faces were just blown away when they saw (the Soldiers) walk in. They've put in a lot of hours practicing for this. They deserve that."

Page last updated Tue December 31st, 2013 at 12:42