Sgt. 1st Class John Baker (left) converses with JEJ Moore Middle School Principal Willie Elliott (center) as Staff Sgt. Ray Daniels listens. Baker, Daniels and several other Soldiers were honored by the school for their volunteer work with the school.

FORT LEE, Va. (June 23, 2011) -- Fort Lee's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program has lent a voluntary hand to various causes in the local community over the past few years.

Its hands of help received a sincere and heartfelt token of gratitude for its work last week when J.E.J. Moore Middle School hosted a year-end Soldier Appreciation Luncheon in its honor.

About 30 teachers, staff and parents came out to the Prince George County public school June 15 to thank the roughly 20 or so Soldiers who volunteered at the school over the course of the school year.

Principal Willie Elliott, speaking in front of those who gathered for the occasion, said the Soldiers had a positive impact on the students and that everyone is thankful for their time.

"We're grateful for what you've done," he said. "We look forward to next year. Please come back; be a part and bring more, support more. We have plenty of room." The crowd began to chuckle as Elliott began making a pitch for the Soldiers' presence next year. "Moore does more; Moore has more; Moore wants more." The chuckles turned into a chorus of laughter.

The BOSS members, from units throughout Fort Lee, but most notably the 49th Quartermaster Group, gave their time to Moore on nearly a weekly basis, greeting students as they arrived for classes in the morning and assisting with other events.

Elliott said after his speech the Soldiers' work and sense of compassion resulted in a constant, welcoming and positive influence on students.

"Their very presence in the building, interacting with our students, interacting with our faculty and staff, and meeting the kids coming in - our students love to feel that somebody cares," he said. "In addition to the teachers, to know that we have a group of people who are protecting our country, to find the time to come and be with the kids - it just makes us feel even more secure."

A sense of security and well-being, said Elliott, goes a long way toward achievement.

"I had one student say to me, ‘You know, I really like this,'" he said, referring to the Wednesdays when BOSS members volunteered at the school. "I think having the opportunity to interact with the kids does a world for their self-esteem. It says to them, ‘You are a very important person.' When you can tell students that they are important, then you can expect them to do a whole lot better academically and in most things they do."

Sgt. 1st Class John Baker, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 49th QM Group, was the senior Soldier present for the occasion. Baker volunteered his time during a fitness event in which staff and faculty were put through an obstacle course. He said the BOSS-school partnership is more than just Soldiers lending a hand.

"This is important because the children of many of our Soldiers attend this school," he said. "Working with the school helps create a strong bond between the Army and the community. It's a display of mutual support - it shows that we appreciate what they do for our kids and that they appreciate what we do to protect the country."

The Soldiers were treated to a potluck lunch that featured many foods prepared by staff, faculty and parents. They also received T-shirts, plaques and gift certificates. Special education teacher Joann Davis said the Soldiers deserved the recognition and more.

"Defending our country and taking the time to spend with our students meant the world to our entire faculty," she said.

Page last updated Thu June 23rd, 2011 at 12:00