Soldiers Read, Share at Cedar Valley

By: Todd Martin
In a patch of shade beneath the trees at the side of the school building, soldiers sat with students to read stories.

Questions led to personal stories, which led to learning about jobs, family, service and life.

Inside Cedar Valley Elementary School, the rest of the group of 16 soldiers from the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment “Sabre Squadron” rotated through about 29 classes to read books and encourage students to continue to pursue education.

Between classes, Spc. Samantha Allen started reading writing samples on the wall written by military students about the challenges and rewards of growing up in a military family.

The young soldier doesn’t get to spend a lot of time with children and the anonymously posted testimonies made her emotional.

“You have to be an example to kids,” she said. “We want to motivate them and this gives them a break and helps them through the stress.”

The “Sabre Squadron” is attached to Cedar Valley through the Fort Hood Adopt-A-School program.

Lt. Taylor Phillips, a relatively new liaison between the elementary school and the unit, said he wanted to bring a group to the school and found out about a 30-day reading challenge in the month of April.

Working with school counselor Brandi Carroll, the soldiers and students combined Friday in a version of Read Across America, which officially takes place in conjunction with Dr. Seuss’ birthday March 2.

The morning of reading together also came a week before the next round of state testing, which starts May 8 for the elementary grades that get tested.

“We wanted to come promote reading and show them that we read and we know that is important,” said Phillips. “We love coming out here and doing this.”

“I think it draws us closer together,” Carroll said, praising the soldiers’ willingness to make their visits more regular. Phillips showed his growing list of planned activities at the school.

In a fourth-grade class, Lt. Mark Belinsky read a silly story called “Dragon’s Love Tacos,” that inspired a broad variety of questions ranging from military service to dragons’ preferred diet.

A student question about leadership got the squadron commander into teacher mode.

Leadership, he said, is about sacrificing for the good of others. He said military leaders make it a habit of eating last to make sure that the youngest soldiers get fed.

Commanding 700 soldiers, he said, comes down to staying prepared for the next mission and taking care of the soldiers and their family members.

Fifth-grade teacher James Cook said the soldiers’ visit went well beyond reading books.

“I love that the Killeen area has this partnership with Fort Hood,” said Cook, a retired soldier. “Almost all these children are affected in some way by the military. They are sharing stories and students are learning good things about the military and they’re learning from people closer to their own age.”

One soldier explained that she is a nurse and that the military will eventually pay for her continued education.

“They are talking about character, about what it’s like to live in Korea,” Cook said, “I really appreciate what they do.”

“I think it’s really awesome,” said fifth-grader Alanna Rosado. “We get to ask a lot of questions about being in the military and how they can learn a job.”

“It made me feel so good,” Allen said of her time at the school. “It makes you feel better.”