FORT MEADE, Md.--“Army dude,” a young voice said in amazement. “Whoa, Army dude…” another child said as Lt. Col. Tony Perry walked down the hallway of Bellows Spring Elementary School carrying his bulky rucksack. Perry, the command inspector general at First Army Division East, was making his way to the elementary school library to set up for the third grade class.

Perry, a Soldier with 20 years of experience, was asked to speak at Bellows Spring during their career week after the division received a letter from Xavier, a student who attends the school.

“Dear Soldier, would you please come to our school for career week…I have always wanted to see an Army suit,” Xavier wrote. “I can’t wait to meet you.”

Perry accepted the invitation enthusiastically.

“This is a great investment of time,” said Perry, referring to speaking to the children. “It is important to impart wisdom on children; they are fun to be around and it is fun to see their bright ideas.”

Perry is no stranger to volunteering. He has been involved with multiple youth organizations throughout the years working with elementary and middle school students. Bellows Spring was another opportunity for him to give back to the surrounding Fort Meade community.

Located in a small community in Ellicott City, Bellows Spring holds its eighth annual career week welcoming a variety of local businesses and various professions.

“Our hope is that students will be able to see opportunities for themselves in the wide variety of things that we bring to them,” said Elizabeth Ivey, Bellows Spring school guidance counselor.

As more than 130 students filed into the school’s small library, Perry put the final touches on his equipment display.

“Good morning class!” he said. “Good morning!” the children exclaimed in unison with enthusiasm.

Perry began by telling the children about himself, his education, and different hobbies he likes to do. Perry also talked about his job as an Army field artilleryman and let the children look at his personal protective equipment. Perry asked Xavier to stand up so he could try on the body armor. As Perry placed the vest over Xavier’s head, his knees wobbled a little under the weight.

“Whoa!” exclaimed Xavier laughing when he felt the heaviness of the vest. Perry chuckled as he removed the body armor.

Perry then played a video highlighting the capabilities of the field artillerymen which got the children very excited.

“We were all kids once,” said Perry. “I think sometimes that is easy to forget; I consider myself a big kid.”

As the presentation came to an end, Perry asked the children if they had any questions. Immediately every child’s hand shot into the air followed by a barrage of questions.

“Do you know my dad?” “Have you ever been to war?” “Have any of your ships ever sank?” “What kind of math does a lawyer need?”

Perry took them all in stride trying to answer the best he could.

“I was a little nervous about the questions they were going to ask, but it turned out ok,” he said.

After the final questions had been asked, Perry called Xavier to the front of the room and presented him with a camouflage backpack and a few other Army tokens of appreciation for
inviting him to come and talk to his class. Xavier put the backpack on right away and wore it for the rest of Perry’s presentation.

“Lieutenant Colonel Perry was a hit,” said Ivey. “It can be difficult to hold the attention of an entire grade of students, but Lieutenant Colonel Perry was exciting and engaging, and kept their attention very well.”

Before Perry said good-bye he wanted to leave the children with a few final inspirational words.

“Treat others the way you want to be treated and always try to do the right thing,” he said. “And remember, when you have a dream you have a goal.”