Students give proper send-off to deploying troops

Hood Herald/TJ MAXWELL - Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Fires Brigade, greet students Thursday during a soldier send-off at the regiment’s adopt-a-school, Manor Middle School. - - - - -

By Rose L. Thayer

Killeen Daily Herald

Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Fires Brigade, were treated like celebrities at Manor Middle School last week, bursting through the haze of a fog machine into a gym of cheering, excited students.

The students came together in matching red T-shirts to give their Adopt-A-School unit the proper send-off for their yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.

Students showed their appreciation for the soldiers with performances by the school's dancers and cheerleaders, the recitation of a poem written by a student and a group cheer: "You're my hero; you make me proud."

Soldiers have dedicated their time to the more than 660 students at Manor through mentor programs, tutoring and directing traffic before and after school.

"The soldiers love it," said Lt. Col. Patrovick Everett, battalion commander. "We are there every single time they call."

The name of each soldier in the battalion hung from the walls of the gym along with a painted sign that read, "First Strike does it right." The names and the sign will move into the cafeteria until all the soldiers come home next year, said Principal Joseph Welch.

"We want to make sure you know you have our support every step of the way and we look forward to their return to us," Welch said.

Everett said the battalion has spent the last three months training and preparing for the

mission overseas.

"They are ready to go and do whatever they are asked. I have no doubt that they're competent and capable of any task," Everett said.

He said the send-off was one of the nicest things he'd ever seen a school do for soldiers.

"I look forward to having a homecoming reunion with every soldier back here safe and sound."

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

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