By T. Anthony BellFebruary 3, 2011
FORT LEE, VA (Feb. 3, 2011) - A group of Fort Lee Soldiers are striving to make their presence felt outside the confines of the installation.
The post's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers organization, which endeavors to improve military members' quality of life and support community service efforts, has formed a blossoming partnership with a local school to provide "meet and greet" representatives in the morning just prior to the start of classes.
BOSS members volunteer every other week at J.E.J. Moore Middle School, located about five miles from Fort Lee in Prince George County. Spc. Michael Nelson, BOSS president, said the volunteer effort provides members an opportunity to support the community outside the gates.
"It's good to do it," he said, noting that he has volunteered at the school on several occasions. "And I know the kids enjoy it because they're always asking when we're coming back. They enjoy our company and we enjoy theirs."
BOSS member-volunteers make their marks during the morning hours when students arrive at school. They are posted at the main entrances of the building, including those located near the bus drop-off points. Their job is not to show or convey authority but simply to greet students with a hearty "good morning" or "have a nice day" as they enter the facility.
Willie Elliott, school principal, said their demeanor and attitude has had a positive impact on school operations and the students.
"Their presence sets a tone of community spirit," he said. "It gets the day started in a positive way."
Even though the military members' purpose is to greet students, Elliott said the fact that they are in uniform has a residual effect.
"The students know that the Soldiers are protecting this country," he said. "There is a sense of security, and there is a distinct connection to Fort Lee. That's important to our school."
Spc. Michael Polk, a 23-year-old member of the 392nd Army Band, said his work at J.E.J. Moore is a worthwhile way to spend his extra time.
"It feels pretty good," said the Woodbridge native who has supported the effort since the beginning of the school year. "I know there are a lot of the students who have relatives in the military so they are familiar with us. They'll shake your hand or give you a high five. You are appreciated."
That show of appreciation brings many of them back, said Nelson.
"They always enjoy themselves when they go out to the school," he said. "They're glad to give back."
BOSS' support of Moore Middle School began two years ago. Since then, more than 100 BOSS volunteers have donated hundreds of hours to the meet-and-greet program as well as other school endeavors.