Herald/SARAH MOORE KUSCHELL - Harker Heights High School JROTC cadet Amanda Plume holds a flag that flew over Iraq this Sept. 11. It was presented to the school Tuesday by Col. Dave Thompson, 4th Infantry Division’s rear detachment commander.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

As head of Multinational Division-Baghdad, the 4th Infantry Division is helping lead the way in getting the people of Iraq back on their feet.

A big focus has been on education and making sure schools are open, stocked and accessible to Iraqi children and teens. While there has been such an emphasis on those children, the division's leader, Maj. Gen. Jeffery W. Hammond, hasn't forgotten about the students in the Fort Hood area.

Col. Dave Thompson, the division's rear detachment commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Heinze, the division's senior noncommissioned officer, visited Killeen, Harker Heights and Copperas Cove high schools on Tuesday to present each school with American flags flown over the division's headquarters at Camp Liberty on Sept. 11.

Thompson and Heinze are set to present two more flags to Shoemaker and Ellison High schools later this week.

Hammond is keen on education, Thompson said during the presentation to Killeen High School's JROTC cadets.

The uniformed cadets, who stood in formation in front of the visiting 4th Infantry leaders, were "perfect examples of why we're here," Thompson said. They have a sense of duty that isn't lost on soldiers, he added.

The entire community is affected by the war and involved in the effort, but the division hasn't forgotten about the students, administrators and educators back home.

"This is definitely a sign you haven't forgotten why you're over there," Killeen High Principal Michael Sibberson said while holding the cased flag. He estimated that 60 to 62 percent of his students have a parent serving in the military. Deploying and missing out on their children's lives is a huge sacrifice for these parents, he said.

But it isn't just students who are feeling the burden. About one-third to one-half of Killeen High's staff have family members in the military, Sibberson said.

So many quietly go about their jobs and remain strong-willed, he added.

Students, teachers and staff members understand what the Army has been up to since the war started, Thompson said later following a presentation at Harker Heights High. Presenting the schools with Sept. 11 flags is the division's way of showing its appreciation for that support.

Though living with war and constant deployments is the "new normal" for families, Sibberson said he hopes people never get so used to it that they forget.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547.

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