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Patriotic Article
Military

By Combined Joint Task Force 101

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Soldier Thanks Michigan First Graders
(March 20, 2011)

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PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (March 3, 2011) – U.S. Army Sgt. Brian MacConaghy, a chaplain's assistant from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Task force Phoenix, delivered an in-person “thank you” to first-graders in Ortonville, Mich., March 3, during his mid-tour leave from Operation Enduring Freedom.
A student in a first grade class at BelleAnn Elementary School gives U.S. Army Sgt. Brian MacConaghy, a chaplain’s assistant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Task Force Phoenix, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, baby clothes for his newborn son, March 3, 2011. MacConaghy visited the children while on leave from Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, after receiving letters from the students in November 2010 while he was deployed. Courtesy Photo
A student in a first grade class at BelleAnn Elementary School gives U.S. Army Sgt. Brian MacConaghy, a chaplain's assistant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Task Force Phoenix, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, baby clothes for his newborn son, March 3, 2011. Courtesy Photo
 MacConaghy visited the class, after receiving gifts and letters earlier in the year while stationed at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

“I wanted to meet the young people who hold [Soldiers] so near and dear,” said MacConaghy, “I wanted to let them see who and what a Soldier is, and to thank them for what they are doing back home.

In November, the BelleAnn Elementary School, collaborated with The Desert Angel organization to support soldiers in Afghanistan. The students and community provided donations. All told, they mailed approximately 120 care packages to soldiers in honor of Veteran's Day.

“The kids were so excited to bring in their items,” said Andrea Swoyer, BelleAnn Elementary first grade teacher. “Many families and teachers stayed after school to help pack the boxes.”

Many of the classes wrote notes of encouragement, one of which made its way to MacConaghy.

MacConaghy, originally from Madison Heights, Mich., took an avid interest in the school because it was 30 minutes from his hometown. He searched online and found contact information for Swoyer.

“I wanted them to know that someone received their gifts
and that they were appreciated,” said MacConaghy.
Over the following months, MacConaghy corresponded with the class – sharing photos and information about being a deployed soldier. The children started referring to him as “Sgt. Mac.”

So when MacConaghy, who was taking leave in Michigan to be home for his son's birth, offered to see the class for a day – the class was elated.

“The kids were so excited they could hardly wait,” said Swoyer, a native of Oxford, Mich., “Every day they would ask me when Sgt. Mac was coming to visit.”

The class constructed patriotic projects for his arrival. They painted American flags and hung them from the ceiling in the classroom. The students made an inspirational book as a gift for MacConaghy where the children explained why they love America.

“The kids thought he should know that we really loved our country, and that we appreciate him fighting for our freedom,” said Swoyer, “The class made a very cool T-shirt for Sgt. Mac by painting an American flag on the front and I used the kid's thumbprints for the stars on the flag. On the bag, we signed everyone's name with the message, ‘Thank you for serving our country!'”

On the class's big day, all of the children dressed in patriotic colors and provided color themed snacks – red punch and star shaped cookies with red, white and blue sprinkles.

When MacConaghy walked into the classroom dressed in his Army combat uniform, a few boys got down on the floor and immediately started doing push-ups.

“It was very funny,” said Swoyer, “When I asked them [why they started doing push-ups], they said they saw soldiers on TV doing this, and they thought he would like it if they did some too.”

MacConaghy gave the children an opportunity to ask him questions after they gathered around him on the floor.

“I think they realized there really are soldiers out there trying to protect our country and the American people,” said Swoyer, “Sgt. Mac talked about the schools the soldiers [serving in Afghanistan] are trying to get up and running. The kids expressed that they didn't know that the soldiers are also helping people in other countries.”

MacConaghy presented each child with a certificate of recognition and a 10th Mountain Division patch during his visit. He said, it was his way of saying thanks for their support of the U.S. Army and a way to recognize them for being exceptionally patriotic young Americans.

“Seeing the children's honest compassion reinforces my reasons for why I am serving my country,” said MacConaghy, “I am ensuring opportunities for future generations.”

It has been more than two weeks since his visit and Swoyer's class is still talking about the visit. They were very excited that he came in uniform and were fascinated with everything he told them about the Army.

“[MacConaghy's visit] has been a highlight in the 16 years that I have been in the classroom,” said Swoyer, “I think it was such a positive, uplifting experience to go through with my first graders; considering all that is going on in the world and the American economy. It was truly touching to watch the kid's faces when he walked through the door in his uniform. When Sgt. Mac went to leave, the kids went running to give him a hug. It opened my eyes to what our servicemen and women are going through to protect our freedom. I am so grateful for the sacrifices soldiers make as well as the sacrifices that soldiers' families make for the rest of us Americans.”
By Combined Joint Task Force 101
Copyright 2011

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