Students from Nolan Richardson Middle School (NRMS) brought smiles to the faces of Soldiers with the Warrior Transition Battalion during a group field trip to the WTB aboard Fort Bliss, Dec. 17.
The students are members of the school's Student to Student Program, a student-led program that helps support incoming students, which supported WTB Soldiers through gifts the students assembled and made.
"Going into the holidays some soldiers are not able to be with their families, this is their opportunity to come together and have camaraderie," said Lt. Col. Bruce Carter, commander, WTB. "It shows [the soldiers] that the community and people care."
The WTB provides medical management and comprehensive training to wounded, ill and injured Soldiers transitioning back to active-duty or civilian life.
To some students, the opportunity to interact with these transitioning soldiers provides them with a means to bond with other students who may not understand the conflicts that exist when a parent or family member is wounded.
"It helps me connect," said Gabrielle Walrath, a sixth-grader at NRMS. "Sometimes I feel like I can't connect because I'm in a certain situation so events like this helps [other students] understand."
Gabrielle, whose father was wounded warrior himself, says events like these let the students show their appreciation the Soldiers for their sacrifices.
"It's nice to know that there are other people that are thanking [Soldiers]," Gabrielle added.
For the Soldiers, the event offered opportunities to present aspects of "service to country" unfamiliar to students.
"Some of the [students] have family members, mother or father who served. Some have been wounded, so to them this is a way to give back to the Soldiers in transition," said Carter. "It's a morale booster and a way for [Soldiers] to sit back and see [the students] say thank you for your service."
"It means a lot to the soldiers that are in the program transitioning," said Lt. Col. David C. Kukkola, a soldier in transition at WTB. "It's great, anything with children involved and supporting us, any supporting organizations it's really good."
The gift exchange permitted the WTB staff to watch the Soldiers and students smile and interact which meant going into the holiday season in a cheerful demeanor.
"[WTB] is making it a lot better for us to transition," said Kukkola. "They give us education courses and give us adaptive sports so we can recondition as much as we can so we be successful on the outside."
Nolan Richardson Middle School is partnered with the Brigade Modernization Command through the Partners In Education Program. The program allows for Fort Bliss units to partner with local schools and provide volunteer opportunities for Soldiers to enrich the quality of life for students, parents and staff of local schools.
Through events like the gift exchange the Partners in Education Program has developed into an outreach of different types of opportunities not only for Soldiers but for also for students grasping a better understanding of the Army's mission and programs.