Originally Published: August 26, 2008 8:54 a.m.
"Writing to our military is good 'cause we can let them know that we appreciate them for protecting our country," said Aila Ray of Mayer Elementary during a visit from Sgt. Micah Leonard Friday.
Leonard is Principal Patti Leonard's son. He visited the class last week and spoke to the students of Jamie Radford's fifth grade students. After giving the students a brief outline of what the war is like and how it feels to be away from family, he answered questions from the class ranging from the types of weapons used in the Army to haircut regulations and the protective gear worn while in the war zone.
Students also asked Principal Leonard what it was like on her end when her son is away.
"You always miss your children," she said, "whether they're going down the street to stay the night or all the way over in Iraq."
Leonard had originally signed on for three years in the Army when he was 21, but when a close friend and mentor died in the field he decided to sign on for a second term. He now has about four years left in the military and recently celebrated his 25 birthday. After the Army he hopes to work in some type of law enforcement position.
Originally stationed in Kentucky, he has moved from base to base, state to state, and participated in one tour in Iraq in 2006 at a base operating out of Baghdad.
The Army is sending Leonard back overseas on Sept. 15, although he doesn't yet know where.
He returned to Mayer for three weeks to visit the town he grew up in as well as his friends and family. He left for his current base, Ft. Wainwright in Alaska, on Friday after his visit to Radford's class.
The students wrote letters to Leonard and others to be sent back to the base overseas in hopes of starting a pen pal program.
"They barely get to talk to people from home, so we write to them to let them know that people from back home do care," said student Michael Darland.