Meeting our Sergeant Pen-Pal, At Last

Our pen-pal returned home from Afghanistan!

It was quite a reunion.  After many months of corresponding with each other- sending giant letters, pictures, drawings, and care packages- Sergeant Curran walked into my classroom to meet the children.  They were so quiet at first. Perhaps it was the uniform.  Or maybe it was simply the moment; a dream that became a reality.  I was choked up.  A big hug broke the ice and Sergeant Curran joined the group of children to shake hands and give hugs.  We asked him so many questions!  Then, we presented him with a copy of his favorite childhood book, Mr. Gumpy’s Outing, signed by all the children.  We then asked him to read the book aloud.

Now, that was wonderful!

It got better and better.

There’s nothing quite like singing a patriotic song, especially to a member of our military in uniform.  We sang “Red, White, and Blue” and “God Bless America” to Sergeant Curran.  Now the tables were turned, and he was the quiet one.  Watching young children stand with their hands on their heart, belting out a favorite patriotic song, was a ‘moment’ for our pen-pal.

We had six American flags to plant in our school’s Memory Garden.  They were from the Memorial Day Remembrance, held indoors due to the rain.  It was fitting that Sergeant Curran would have the honor of planting the flags, alongside the children.

It is interesting that children understand the significance of our Memory Garden.  While it is part of the playground, it holds painted rocks among beautiful flowers, marking classroom pets that have died.  It holds stepping stones and a statue to remember children who have died.  American flags fly there to honor our military and remember those who have served.

I don’t take children to the Memory Garden as a lesson; I simply talk and answer questions when children are there, whether it is in curiosity of the painted rocks, or in the quiet solitude of just being there.  Children know.  They feel, and want to learn and understand.  I need to be there when that happens.  The circle of life.

And, our pen-pal gave new life to the Memory Garden.  The American flags were planted with great respect.

It was a wonderful day!  Thank you Sergeant Curran for all you do, and for being our pen-pal.  The children will forever remember you.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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80 Responses to Meeting our Sergeant Pen-Pal, At Last

  1. Darlene says:

    How very special!! The kids won´t forget this.

  2. John Kraft says:


    I’m sure that the kids will remember that day.

  3. Oh, what a lovely post. So nice for your children to have had this experience, Jennie.

  4. spearfruit says:

    A wonderful visit the kids and Sergeant Curran will not soon forget. This is so very special Jennie. 🙂

  5. cheyenne65 says:

    I love that you shared this. Thank you. Your students and you blessed him as much as he blessed you. What a wonderful lesson and memory for these kids to carry forward.

  6. beetleypete says:

    Something for both children and soldier to treasure for all their lives. Wonderful stuff indeed, Jennie, and a valuable life lesson too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  7. Wonderful post. You remind me of some of my great teachers, when I was growing up.You are teaching your students some very valuable lessons, such as respect, patriotism, and caring for others. Ill bet, even Sergeant Curran learned some things. Keep up the good work.

  8. John Fioravanti says:

    Wow! This is a wonderful post, Jennie! How wonderful that your Sergeant Curran is a kind and loving person. Truly memorable. Thanks for this.

  9. Aww – this is so sweet, Jennie! How wonderful for you all to have finally met in person! What a very special day you all had! 😄

  10. How simply wonderful, Jennie!

  11. “Mr. Grumpy’s Outing” now if that isn’t a ‘tell’…HA!
    Seems this young man has grown into a fine one…Thank him from me, too.

  12. srbottch says:

    Such a wonderful story, Jennie. I wonder when children start to grasp the understanding of duty and honor. Sgt. Curran surely does.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Steve. I think grasping the concept is cumulative, and happens after multiple events. Kids will get it over time, with exposure.

  13. Dan Antion says:

    How wonderful was that?

  14. Aw, what a special event. It’s wonderful how they could meet him in a safe comfortable environment, get to know him as a friend, rather than as a big soldier marching down the street at a distance away. I’m rushing, but hopefully my words are clear. I’m happy the day went well.

    • Jennie says:

      I know exactly what you mean, Marcia. The ‘up close and personal’ makes such a difference. All the difference in the world, actually. It was wonderful!

  15. How exciting. It looks like the sergeant fit right in and got lots of hugs. Wonderful post, Jennie. ❤

  16. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    This is simply a wonderful post!

  17. So wonderfully different than my memories of being the daughter of a deployed soldier during Vietnam… children weeping in class missing their dads, dads gone MIA, the sense that adults did not approve of you because of your father’s job…. THIS, this is what it should have been even then… And the little military brat in me says thank you. Thank you for making soldiers something besides soldiers — for making them FAMILY.

    • Jennie says:

      Your story rings true. My husband was not permitted to wear his uniform in the Vietnam era in public because of disapproval and even potential harm. How sad! And to think that your teachers didn’t embrace patriotism and welcome soldiers into the classroom. They were NOT thinking of the children at all. Do teachers today welcome soldiers? Not many. I am so glad I can do a tiny bit to give children a sense of pride and giving thanks to our military. Yes, they become family!! That is a wonderful thing.

  18. What an awesome story! And you’re right, children do understand spaces like the memory garden you mentioned. In fact they probably understand a lot more than we adults realize.

  19. As the mom of an Army Sergeant, I loved this post.

  20. So touching. I wish all our soldiers could experience this. What a great way to help kids to understand patriotism and honor.

  21. This means so much to the children and to your pen pal, words are not enough to say how very transforming and meaningful it can be for both. K. D.

  22. Meg says:

    Deeply moving post, Jenny.

  23. Reblogged this on K. D. Dowdall and commented:
    This means so much to children and to your pen pal, words are not enough to say how very transforming and meaningful it can be for both. Thank you, Jennie for sharing this endearing and very special occasion.

  24. Jennie, I reblogged this touching and meaningful occasion for the children and your Pen Pal, and now for all of us.

  25. Everything about this post made me happy and a bit wistful. I liked what KC Redding-Gonzalez had to say about it as well. This is important learning and experiencing for children. Thank you for being that kind of teacher.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marlene. I’m so glad you felt happy. I couldn’t be any other way- just doing what is good for children. I liked KC’ s words, too. Just like your words! 😀

  26. Di says:

    Hello Jennie,
    What an absolutely full and rich life your little students experience in your care and guidance. Another touchingly beautiful post, thank you 💐✨✨

  27. reocochran says:

    Jennie, your class is very special and lucky to have you as a teacher and leader. They learn so much about mature things which are important to feel safe and loved while learning. Both Sgt Curran and your class in the aqua colored room were blessed!

    Our (Delaware, Ohio) small town schools do read the words to the “Star Spangled Banner” in a book by Peter Spier. It’s a Reading Rainbow book. 🙂
    I always did the pledge of allegiance every day no matter preschool special needs or middle school. When I was an activity director at a nursing home we matched interests between the elderly and sixth graders for history lessons. We invited them to attend Veteran’s Day services. They arrived in a bus three times annually.
    Where we had the HS color guard, the local VFW and the ROTC help bring each wheelchair with a Vet forward to be acknowledged.
    Just to make sure people from other countries don’t think we still show respect and pride in our armed forces 🇺🇸 and love to coordinate intergenerational activities. ♥
    We also made a list of the ones who had siblings who died in wars and skirmishes, while they still lived. We handed each resident a bell to ring. (To Whom the Bell Tolls)
    Bless you for what you do, hope more schools close to you recognize patriotic practices. Honestly, since 9/11/01, I thought every town and school did these! This made me sad when you said, “Not many”
    (classrooms/teachers) do this!!

    • Jennie says:

      Robin, this is so wonderful!! It gives me hope. I wonder if the school activities you mention are more prevalent in small towns? The list of events in Delaware (including reading Peter Spier’s book) are sooo important. How else can children learn patriotism? Coming face to face with veterans is terrific. Thank you, thank you for sharing all these details. 🇺🇸

      • reocochran says:

        Your way is the special, ideal way! 😊 One veteran with a small group of young people, up close and personal. 🎖🎉
        If anyone wishes to take their children, students or scout troop to a nursing home, they have a list of who has served. We had a funny lady whose real name was Maxine, but the kids called her “Magazine.” She explained how she was shown more respect serving her country than any other job once she left the military service behind. So many stories poured out along our road trips to visit rose gardens, go fishing on wheelchair accessible pontoon boats or the Columbus Clippers baseball games. . . My activity assistant drove and I had the special blessing to sit with the ten passengers. We truly took hours to make a chart to rotate the over 200 residents in our big nursing home facility. (I loved 1994-99, have photos on old 3×5 pictures but I loved my 9 years of preschool class of 8 with developmental delays and four typical peers best! 1999- 08) xo

      • Jennie says:

        I love this, Robin. You paint the best pictures with your stories, from Maxine to recalling 3×5 size photos. Preschool does hold great memories. Many thanks!

  28. Definitely a feel good story! My husband’s in the Army so I can relate. 🙂

  29. I don’t just like this post-Jennie, I love it. I am sitting her trying to post with tears streaming down my face and a tissue to wipe them away, but, it’s not working. This is a beautiful, loving post and a tribute to our hero’s. I am reblogging this and hope that many more people will do the same.
    Kudos Jennie, Kudos.
    Hugs. xoxo

  30. Reblogged this on The Writers Desk and commented:
    A most well deserved and beautiful tribute to one of America’s Heros.

  31. What a magnificent learning experience yu provided to these children. Congratulations!

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