By Wendy Gragg
Killeen Daily Herald
Pfc. Joe Constante was all business as he painstakingly scraped the price sticker off a Barbie box Wednesday morning.
The Fort Hood soldiers mission for the day was to play Santas helper to a Fowler Elementary School student, and he took the task seriously.
Constante and several other 4th Infantry Division soldiers from Fowlers adopted unit spent the morning helping Fowler students carry on a tradition of giving.
Twenty-four Fowler students, one from each class, were turned loose Wednesday morning in Big Lots, each with $25 to spend on family members. Soldiers accompanied the children as they selected the perfect gifts for their loved ones and even a little something for themselves.
The Christmas shopping trip is a holiday tradition at Fowler. The shopping was funded by Dr. Brian Miller and wife, Linda Miller, who are longtime supporters of the school. In the past, the Millers have paid for part of the shopping excursion, while others have picked up the rest of the tab. This year, the Millers paid for the entire excursion.
Fowler counselor Nancy Hoxworth said the Millers generosity helped save the tradition this year.
There was a question if we should let it drop, and (Linda Miller) said, Absolutely not, well do the whole thing, Hoxworth said.
Linda Miller said helping the children shop and give back to their families has meant a lot to her family.
Thats the meaning of Christmas, she said. To my husband and me, that is our Christmas.
The soldiers in Troop B, 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment pitched in their many hands to make light work of the morning shopping excursion. The soldiers helped the students pick out gifts, then turned the Fowler library into Santa Central and got down to wrapping gifts.
The gift-wrapping appeared to be as much a learning experience for some of the soldiers as it was for the students. Constante admitted it was maybe his second time wrapping gifts, but his Fowler buddy, fourth-grader Marquell Bass, trusted him enough to let him pick out the wrapping paper they should use.
The soldiers chatted with the children as they folded paper around stuffed SpongeBobs and mugs bought for grandma.
Pfc. Rafael Herrera helped fourth-grader Darius James wrap gifts for grandma, his cousins, sisters and an aunt.
Darius said he thought the shopping trip was a good idea. Because you get to think about somebody besides yourself, he said.
Contact Wendy Gragg at firstname.lastname@example.org