Soldier Thanks Michigan First Graders
(March 20, 2011)
|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. 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
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
“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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
By Combined Joint Task Force 101|
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