CAMP SHELBY, Miss. – Trimming the tree, wrapping presents or making wreaths are beloved traditions of the holidays.
Sixth grade students at Sumrall Middle School started their own holiday tradition this year, naming the occasion Adopt-a-Soldier. The students not only gave South Carolina National Guard soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, a hero’s welcome, but also a holiday surprise. The soldiers recently returned from a deployment security-force in Kuwait.
The students and their teacher, Dana Jones, coordinated with the Camp Shelby Morale, Welfare and Recreation enlisted advisor, Staff Sgt. Latasha Williams, to host the Adopt-a-Soldier event in mid-December.
“Some students wanted to do a holiday event showing their support of the military by presenting them with Christmas gifts and songs,” said Williams. “It’s inspiring that these students wanted support to soldiers who have been deployed.”
Upon the class finishing studies about World War II, Jones’ students brainstormed an idea to put together a gathering dedicated to the soldiers for Christmas.
“The minute it was mentioned, it just took off,” said Jones who took pride in her student’s endeavor. “They were just so excited about it.”
For two weeks the students practiced singing songs and assembled gift bags, cards and candy bags, said Jones.
All students carried bright-red signs with their adopted Soldier’s name.
“We were trying to help out our soldiers because they just returned from a long deployment,” said student Angel Hartfield.
Angel wore Santa’s hat and held a sign adopting Staff Sgt. Duane Campbell. Duane is from Summerville, S.C.
“I feel privileged to be a part of this,” said Staff Sgt. Derrick McCormick, from Dylan S.C. “I am sure it gave the kids something to look forward to. We were looking forward to meeting them.”
The students mingled with the soldiers. They were inquisitive about the soldiers’ missions overseas. Some soldiers gave their student a unit patch to wear.
“This is great!” said Sgt. 1st Class John Mckenzie, native of Lakeview, S.C. “Last time we returned home we didn’t have anything like this, so it means a lot. Especially, to our younger soldiers back from their first deployment.”