Letters for the Deployed, a flag for the kids


Just before the end of the school year, Duke Elementary School was called in for an assembly in the cafeteria. The students were not aware, but it was due to something they had done several months ago. Upon walking in, they saw a lone member of the U.S. Air Force, ready with a special presentation to thank the children, faculty and school for taking care of deployed military members.


The presentation was supposed to be a surprise, just as the school had surprised several Airmen down range during the 2016 holiday season.


“I was informed about a special presentation by base members,” said Rick Wilson, Duke Elementary School principle. “But I didn’t exactly know what it was until 24 hours before the school assembly.”


The school sent presents that touched the heart of over 30 deployed members as well as U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Anthony Molina, 97th Maintenance Directorate inspection managements flight chief, so they decided to give the school a special, patriotic gift; a United States flag, flown in combat during Operation Inherent Resolve.


“We had the Pre-Kindergarten through 6th grade students come to the cafeteria for an assembly. There, the presentation to the school of this amazing flag,” said Wilson. “The students, faculty and I were very wide-eyed to receive such a special flag. We all felt very honored. The flag made the kids scream with joy and a multitude of pictures were taken to commemorate this event.”


The flag was Molina’s way of thanking the school for sending letters to the Airmen under his supervision. Sent during the holiday season, the letters arrived just in time for Christmas.


“Typically, around that time of year, you’re with family,” said Molina. “During that time is when a lot of depression and loneliness can set in. We were completely blindsided when the letters came in. I’ve been in for some time and I’ve never seen something like that.”


The idea of writing letters had come up in September 2016. Personnel of the 97th MX reached out to see if Duke elementary was willing to show these members that they were still thought of half-way around the world.


“When I mentioned this potential project to the teachers and faculty, they were 100 percent on board to lead the students in this endeavor,” said Wilson. “The students were excited and wanting to help but they were also sad about the members being away from home for the holidays.”


Molina’s supervisor had gotten his mailing address and sent a care package, not specifying what was in it, addressed for Molina and the Airmen under his supervision.


“Those kids drew pictures and wrote letters, which was really humbling,” said Molina. “There were a few tears, but when people saw that and realized that they were supported back home, it meant a lot. That was a high point for me. It was really when the Airmen realized that we are thought of and people are thankful for what we do when we’re not there.”


The U.S. flag is proudly displayed in the school gymnasium with all the school trophies for all to see. It stands as a proud reminder of the sacrifice of our Airmen throughout the year and the proud community supporting them.