The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 29, 2013

GBCS first-graders meet Air Force pen pal

After sending their own, students receive flag flown over Afghanistan base

By Carra Higgins
Register-Herald Reporter

PROSPERITY — First-graders in Genna Shrewsbury’s Greater Beckley Christian Elementary School class Thursday got to meet and talk to the U.S. Air Force member to whom they wrote and colored United States flag pictures during his time in Afghanistan.

The students received something in return, too.

U.S. Air Force Sr. Master Sgt. Tim Cook, of Beckley, presented the class with a framed U.S. flag, which flew over Cook’s overseas base.

The eager and excited first-graders asked Cook — who visited the class in his desert camouflage uniform — a hodgepodge of questions that ranged from what the weather was like in Afghanistan to if the military had “big tanks” in the desert. After learning that the U.S. military is fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, one student informed Cook that they were learning about the “British,” referring to the Revolutionary War.

Cook told the students that he shared what they had written with others in the camp and their spirits were brightened.

“I thank you guys,” Cook told the class.

Cook explained that he decided to give the class the flag because he thought it would be a good gift for those back home who offered support. The students, he added, reminded him why he is serving his country, and receiving mail from home made the monotonous daily routines better.

Later in the day, Cook planned to speak to students who wrote him from Maxwell Hill Elementary, where his niece attends school. Cook’s nephew, Zechariah Wade, is a student in the first-grade class at GBC.

One student in the class, Kate Lowe, 7, explained she enjoyed coloring the U.S. flag picture for Cook, but also was excited to see him in person Thursday morning.

“I’ve never seen a soldier before and I like soldiers,” Lowe said. “I learned you fight a lot in the military.”

GBC Elementary Principal Nancy Hill said the class’ letters and visit from Cook helped bring curriculum to life, which she firmly supports. When the class wrote and colored pictures for Cook around Christmas, they were learning about the U.S. flag and how members of the military protect it and the freedom it represents.

Hill also said that the exercise is a good community outreach project, especially for the soldiers who put their lives “on the line.”