ARCADIA, Ind. – When a fifth-grade student at Hamilton Heights Elementary School was named student of the week, he was given the opportunity to invite anyone he wanted to come have lunch with him in his school cafeteria.
Most kids would have probably invited a parent, grandparent or possibly a favorite aunt or uncle. Joe Ringer, however, had more lofty aspirations as to who his guest would be.
“I was really touched that Joe would think of me,” said Indiana National Guard Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger. “As soon as I saw his letter, I immediately replied that I would love to.”
Umbarger took Joe up on his offer, Feb. 8, just in time for pizza day at Hamilton Heights Elementary. He was able to not only sit down and have lunch with Joe, but also visit his homeroom class for a while. The general’s dress uniform quickly captured the attention of all the students in the class.
Students gathered en masse around Umbarger all the way down the hallway and through the lunch line until he and Joe finally sat down to eat. Joe was full of questions about his uniform, the military in general and what exactly generals do for a living.
For Joe, he could not think of anyone else he would rather have lunch with, having met Umbarger when he was younger. Joe’s mother, retired Sgt. 1st Class Mary Ringer, was Umbarger’s secretary almost 10 years ago he was the commander of the 76th Separate Infantry Brigade in Indianapolis.
“General Umbarger has always been really nice to me, but I haven’t seen him in a long time,” said Joe, who hadn’t seen his mother’s boss in almost seven years. “I feel really honored that he actually responded to my letter and came to see me.”
Hamilton Heights Assistant Principal, Jessica Dubois, greeted Umbarger when he arrived at the school and told him that he was welcome to visit the school any time.
“We always love to have strong, positive role models here to see the students,” said Dubois.
Umbarger was the talk of the cafeteria, enjoying a square slice of pizza, a cardboard carton of milk and the good company of a friend.