Big Brother Booker
February 12, 2013
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii-- As he walks through the halls of Gustav H. Webling Elementary School, every passing child smiles and says, "Hello, Mr. Booker!" The students walk in single file lines, breaking ranks to run to him with hugs and high fives. Teachers wave. Parents go out of their way to shake his hand. The school's love for this one Soldier is as overwhelming as his selfless attitude.
"If you have, you give," said Spc. Quinten Booker, an information technician for the 8th Theater Sustainment Command. "That's something my daddy taught me that has stuck with me all my life. It's what I live by, and it's how I want to live my life."
The Alabama native has been his unit's liaison with the school for the past three years. On paper, it means he provides the school with resources and personnel for events and fundraisers. But in reality, it's a deeper relationship.
"Each one of these kids is like my little brother and sister, and I take care of them the same way," he said. "This is my school. I feel like an honorary member of the staff. I'm a big brother."
Booker explained that in the military, family is everywhere if you're willing to look.
"I've grown in my years in the military," he said. "I don't only have my brothers and sisters in arms, but I also have these kids and the people that work here to lean on when I do miss my family."
Booker's selfless attitude goes beyond his contributions to the school. On Saturdays, he takes the clothes he's collected throughout the week down to the Bethel Street Homeless Shelter, Honolulu and takes children's clothes to the Battered Women and Children's Shelter in Kalihi, Hawaii. He also finds and donates toys to Toys for Tots. His giving spirit comes from a lifetime of learning from his experiences.
"I didn't have a father for the first 10 years of my life," Booker shared. "My mother worked three jobs to support all of us kids, so I never really saw her."
When Booker was reunited with his father in 2000, he became his idol, his role model. He said, it's hard think that someone who missed 10 years of his life could come back and make such an impact on him.
"He always instilled in me that, as long as you have, you should give," he said. "And I take that motto with me everywhere I go. I'm not bad off or want for anything now that I am in the military. There are people that are in a whole lot worse situations than me, and if I can do anything to help them, I will."
To show its appreciation for Booker's contributions, the school nominated him for Lex Brodie's, "Above and Beyond" Award and the, "Thank You … Very Much" Award. Both honors a uniformed community member who goes out of his or her way to make a difference for others.
"We have a wonderful partnership with the military, but Mr. Booker has really impressed all of the teachers," said Lynn Yasutomi, a 3rd grade teacher at Webling. "The children truly love Mr. Booker. It was a no-brainer to nominate him, and it's so very sad that our time with him is so short."
Booker was surprised by the nomination.
"I didn't think I was doing anything out of the ordinary," said Booker. "Apparently there are a lot of people that pay attention to the good things that we're out here doing."
As Booker ends his tour in Hawaii and prepares to deploy to Kuwait or Afghanistan, he carries with him the experiences and lives he's touched here.
"I appreciate that I got the opportunity to be a part of these kids' lives," he said through tears. "I hope that what me and my peers have done here will stick with them. I'm going to miss this school. I'm going to miss the staff, definitely going to miss the kids. They're something special, each and every one of them."