By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald
Poignant and personal, a soldier recently returned from Iraq presented a flag to his son's fourth-grade class Thursday and thanked the children for their brave service to their country.
Sgt. First Class Jamie Walls was at his desk preparing for a mission with the U.S. Army Operational Test Command in Iraq when he decided he wanted to give a flag to his son Samuel Walls and to his friends and teacher at Meadows Elementary School on Fort Hood.
Carol Wilcox grew teary as Walls and his wife, Sharon Walls, entered the classroom.
The soldier assured the students, all military dependents, that their parents were working hard for a noble cause to rebuild a country.
He credited his comrades and his wife and said it was his two sons – fourth-grader Samuel and second-grader Jeremiah – who sacrificed the most during multiple deployments over a 13-year career.
"They make the sacrifice when I'm not there to tuck them in bed and kiss them goodnight," Walls said. "I'm not there to cheer them on from the stands during their sports here. They make the greatest sacrifice of all."
He expressed thanks to Meadows for supporting his family and the families of his friends.
"I set out to have this flag flown over Iraq and present it to my son Samuel to express my gratitude and appreciation in how he selflessly allows me to defend this great nation," he said.
The soldier called the teacher forward and then asked all the students to gather around. He gave a boxed flag he said flew over Iraq to the class.
Deeply moved, Wilcox said the flag would assume a prominent place in her classroom.
"It's overwhelming," she said after the ceremony. Often, children and the community honor soldiers, but too often their sons and daughters serve in silence, she said.
"For a parent to come in like this and put the focus on the kids is amazing and wonderful," she said. "We need to focus on our kids more."
Wilcox said she planned to place the flag in a display case and use it as a centerpiece for a classroom bulletin board that would contain Walls' words as well as students' written responses.
Walls told students he served as a scout testing equipment for the Army. His resumé reads like a geography book, with 11 deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Albania, Hungary, Croatia, Egypt and Iraq.