Visit to Ramstein Elementary School Moving Experience for Wounded Soldiers
March 29, 2007
RAMSTEIN, Germany - It was enough to bring a strapping soldier to the verge of tears.
A classroom full of second-graders at Ramstein Elementary School sang a patriotic song for a handful of wounded soldiers, who not that long ago were serving downrange.
The visit is part of a monthly trip wounded soldiers, receiving care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and staying at the medical transient detachment on Kleber Kaserne, make to the young students.
In the little more than a year since the medical transient detachment began the program, some soldiers have been so touched by the experience that they have given the students their combat patches.
As the kids sang and danced along to the music Thursday, the soldiers standing in front of Colleen Luckie's second- grade class savored the moment. It could have induced goose bumps on the hardest of soldiers.
"It's kind of neat to see second-graders understand what's going on," said Spc. Thomas Toomey, 24, of the 3rd Infantry Division. "It's comforting. They really care about us."
Pfc. Travis Hooker, 22, said he almost cried when listening to the kids sing.
"It's always good to make a good impression on the kids, but, you know what, they truly impressed me today. Truly."
It's obvious that the visits are more than just a morale boost for the outpatient soldiers suffering relatively minor injuries. The youths' bright smiles are infectious among the soldiers.
"It's very therapeutic for my guys and the kids," said Staff Sgt. Jeff Lawrence, a platoon sergeant at the medical transient detachment. "Sometimes the soldiers are a little reluctant to come with it being second-graders and them being 'Hooah' soldiers, but look at the way they interact."
And it's not just the soldiers who benefit from the trip. The kids look forward to the visits every month, Luckie said.
"Some of the children have parents deployed to Iraq, so it's a connection for them as well," she said.
In Kathy Maxey's second-grade classroom, another group of visiting soldiers checked out the kids' handmade Easter cards. They also decorated paper cutouts to be used later in a science experiment on gravity. While coloring the paper, 7-year-old Kira Chinapen leaned over to Sgt. Daniel Delgado, who suffered burns to his face, right wrist and leg during a roadside bomb blast in Iraq not long ago. The second-grader had a joke for Delgado.
"Why did the banana go to the doctor'" Kira asked.
"I don't know," Delgado responded. "Why'"
"Because he wasn't peeling well," she said.
Delgado chuckled. "I'm going to tell that one to my friends," he said.