Fort Belvoir, Va. (Feb. 27, 2014) - Students at Fort Belvoir Elementary School had a lot to say about Fairness Thursday when servicemembers visited their classrooms to discuss this month's character trait in the Character Counts program, a partnership between the school and U.S. Army Garrison Fort Belvoir Headquarters Battalion.

"I learned that you want to treat someone the way you want to be treated," said Ana Lireyna, 8, in Holly Mamo's third grade class. "If you didn't have a nice character, people wouldn't want to be your friend or they wouldn't want to be nice to you."

Her classmate Brayden Hymas, 9, added that fairness is about treating others equally.

"People will get sad … if you include someone but you leave the other person out," he said.

Once a month, from November to April, Fort Belvoir servicemembers talk with FBES students about one of six character traits: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship.

"It's fun to hear what kids have to say about values," said Spc. Johnathon Bach, 55th Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), who talked to Mamo's class.

"Some of the answers are surprising," he said. "It was fun to talk to kids and just get in their heads a little bit, see what they think."

The interactive talks with students show them how servicemembers use values in real life, he added.

"I think it's good to connect the military back the civilian world as best we can and these kids, they appreciate what we do," he said.

Even the kindergartners understood the concept of fairness, said Sgt. Erick Harris, Fort Belvoir Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, who spoke to Dr. Brenda LeBlanc's kindergarten class Thursday.

"The kids knew exactly what fairness is. They gave a lot of examples pertaining to home and school," he said.

"I have three kids who attend FBES and I think Character Counts is a great learning tool," he added. "It's great because they get to interact with Soldiers other than their parents."

Staff Sgt. Stephen Ricciardelli, protective services agent for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Army Protective Services Battalion (Criminal Investigative Division) on Fort Belvoir, has participated in all four of the Character Counts visits to the school this year.

He said the program gives Soldiers the chance to be role models in the community.

"Through this program, we not only shape the character of the children but the idea of Soldiers as community members and leaders," he said. "The children are very open. I think they enjoy being asked how they view the concept and like to hear what we have to impart to them."

Character Counts has inspired him to volunteer even more, after seeing what a difference Soldiers can make in others' lives.

"To see these Soldiers giving up their time in order to help kids develop good character is commendable," he said. "It makes me feel that, as a junior NCO, I should be more involved in the community."

Character Counts is the largest character education program in the nation, and is based on the Josephson Institute's Six Pillars of Character.

Next month's Character Counts discussion on caring will be March 20 at FBES.

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