Gunslingers bond with students

Soldiers from the 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command  gather around the Adopt-A-school sign that was erected outside of the Raye-Allen Elementary School Tuesday in Temple.

Sgt. 1st Class Chris Bridson | U.S. Army

The Fort Hood Adopt-A-School program is designed to encourage community relations, increase public awareness of the Army’s mission and use unit resources to nurture the emotional, social and physical growth of students in neighboring schools.

At Raye-Allen Elementary School in Temple, soldiers from the 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for the installation of the school’s new sign marking the start of a new partnership between the “Gunslingers” and the “Eagles.”

“Today we begin a partnership together as a community, to build a stronger relationship between the soldiers who defend our nation and the students standing before us,” said Lt. Col. Keith McVeigh, commander of the Gunslingers Battalion.

As children, parents and faculty members gathered around the school’s flag pole, soldiers raised the nation’s colors and rendered a salute to start the ceremony before moving to the site of the new sign.

“We are going to embrace our duties of guiding and mentoring our most precious asset and gift, that is the youth of America,” McVeigh said.

Staff Sgt. Thomas Kent, the Adopt-A-School representative for the battalion’s 602nd Support Maintenance Company, organized the ceremony and was the driving force behind establishing a relationship with Raye-Allen Elementary School.

“Today’s purpose is to show the kids that we are here to help coach, mentor and be there for them by showing a presence in the school and the community,” Kent said. “Today we showed the kids how to raise and lower their flag and let them know that this is something that they can do.”

For the ribbon-cutting, McVeigh was joined by the school’s principal, Gail Leidy, Temple Independent School District Superintendent Robin Battershell, and various students from the third, fourth and fifth grades who will be raising and lowering the school’s flag every day.

“The main purpose for today was to get our partnership going with Fort Hood and have the soldiers become a part of our school community,” Leidy said.

“We had a flag-raising ceremony, which was probably the first time our students had ever seen something that formal, and also the dedication of the sign showing that they have come together with us to be partners.”

Leidy said she was excited the company is now partners with her school and looks forward to working with the soldiers on a regular basis.

“I think it’s going to establish some good role models for patriotism in America and we need that in this day and time,” she said.

The soldiers of the 602nd have already planned future visits to the school and will be helping the faculty during lunch and with the after school mentorship program.

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