Sometime early last Fall, one of our STC 1st Grade teachers, Rose Wiese, called and asked me if it would be alright if her classroom of kids adopted my son, U.S. Army PFC?Andrew Arp, while he was deployed to Afghanistan, and of course I said "YES!".
She wanted ideas of what they could send to Andy and while thinking about how so many families are affected by the economy, I suggested that they draw or color pictures or write letters to him, things that they could do without cost to their families, wherever their imagination took them.
He had received a number of care packages from different people and organizations and while they were all so much appreciated, he was most touched by the packages that came from the kids and Rose. Before Christmas, he received one of those packages and inside was a teddy bear dressed in camo. Andy and his buddies spent time thinking of what to name the bear and once they came up with a name, they took a couple of pictures of Andy and one of his buddies holding the bear, ones that I printed and passed on to Rose. They had named it "Ted E. Patton".
Front, l-r, Natalie Purk, Jimena Nunez, Ethan Cruikshank, and Maya Ortiz. 2nd row l-r, Cale Dvorak, Lauren Upah, Emma Harwick, Jersey Zeman, Jasmin Ramos, and Maribel Castanon. 3rd row l-r, Guillermo Garcia-Martinez, Ivan Avarado, Wade Cosgrove, Galene Johnson, and Sammie Schneider. Back row l-r, PFC?Andrew Arp, Kary Kesl, Edgar Hernandez, Raymond Berhends, Joseph Withrow, Arro Lyons, and teacher Rose Wiese. Photo/Kathy Arp
When I took the pictures to the school, I had attached a note to Rose to ask the kids to learn the significance of the last name of the bear. Little did they know that not only were their young minds learning how to read and write but also about our military, geography, world events, and history, along with the wonderful feelings of giving from the heart. Rose would comment that there were days that all the kids wanted to talk about was Andy and they spent a lot of time looking at the photos on the bulletin board that we had brought to them.
On April 3rd, 2 days after coming home to Iowa from Ft.Bragg, N.C., Andy and I paid a visit to the classroom and while I videotaped the homecoming, Rose whipped around to give Andy a big hug. The kids stood back in a group and started whispering to each other, asking if that was Andy and eventually Rose turned to the kids and said to them that "Yes kids, this is Andy". They became very excited to see him but a bit bashful to ask questions or talk to him so we had him sit down in a chair while they sat on the floor all in front of him and before too long, the air was filled with questions and he could hardly keep up with them. They had very good questions considering their age!
After the photos were taken, the kids all gathered around Andy for a big group hug and didn't want him to leave. They were so excited to finally meet the hero they had only seen pictures of for about 8 months. He was so amazed at the kid's knowledge and their questions.
The connection between Rose and Andy goes back about 19 years when Andy and Rose's son Dirk were in preschool together. They have remained very good friends ever since, and they graduated together from STC in 2007. After a few days in Iowa, Andy traveled on to Tulsa where on April 14th, he was married, and Dirk was one of his groomsmen in the wedding.
Andy is now back at Ft.Bragg, working hard, getting ready for his next deployment. In approximately 2 weeks, he will be joined by his new bride, Faith Christine, who is still in Tulsa finishing up her college degree in elementary education.