Seaborn Elementary School first graders in the classrooms of teachers Lori Reigle, Mary Hlasta, Carol Corklic and teacher's aide Brandi Suarez spent the winter corresponding with a very special pen pal.
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel J. Rhodes was not only a former Seaborn student in the classroom of Mary Hlasta, he also was pilot of a AH-64D Apache Helicopter who flew combat missions in Afghanis-tan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Rhodes, who has visited the school on several occasions, sent a flag for each of the first-grade classes. Rhodes also sent a flag to the school's principal, Cindy Mulgrew, as a gift to all students at Seaborn Elementary.
First-grade classes at Seaborn Elementary School received a U.S. flag that was carried on a combat mission on an AH-64D Apache helicopter. The helicopter also carried a missile that was labeled, Seaborn Elementary. The flag was presented to the class by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel J. Rhodes, a former Seaborn student and Apache helicopter pilot. First-graders from Mary Hlasta’s class pictured front row, from left, are Elias Clarke, Gavin Fox, Cheyenne Arnio, Morgan Haynie, Nicole Kettering, Reychel Lapierre and Tanner Boyer. Back row, from left, are Kaleb Suarez, Treyton Stefan, Mason Rodgers, Brendon Witt, Giovan Gilbert, Marco D’Angelo, Nathaniel Colburn, Harley Martin and Andrew Palguta.
''They all flew with me personally on my last mission in my Apache helicopter,'' Rhodes wrote in a letter to the students.
Rhodes also told the students in his letter that along with the flags, the helicopter also contained a missile that is named the Seaborn Elementary Missile.
''We didn't shoot the missile, though,'' Rhodes wrote.
Rhodes, who is currently serving a 12-month deployment in Afghanistan, began corresponding with the students before Christmas, Hlasta said. In addition to being a former student, Rhodes sister, Brandi Suarez, is a teacher's aide at the school. Suarez' son and Rhode's nephew, Kaleb Suarez, is a third grade student at Seaborn.
In addition to sending letters, the students also sent several packages for Rhodes to share with his fellow soldiers. The packages contained Christmas cards, Valentine cards and several treats and snack cakes.
''We wanted to let them know we are thinking of them,'' Hlasta said.
In return, the soldiers made the first-graders honorary members of the Blue Wolves Brigade, 1st Battalion, Charlie Company. With each flag, Rhodes also enclosed a certificate for each first grade teacher and a Blue Wolf combat action patch.
''You are all now honorary Bluewolves!,'' Rhodes wrote. ''Howwwlllll!!!''