Shelbyville school adopts Kentucky Air Guardsman during Afghanistan deployment
By Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 06, 2014
SHELBYVILLE, Ky. -- Smiles, laughter and excitement fill Stephanie Herndon's fourth-grade classroom as her students take out pencils to write another batch of letters to their "adopted" Airman, Staff Sgt. Krome Raymond, a Kentucky Air National Guardsman who is deployed to Afghanistan.
Raymond holds a special place with the students from Clear Creek Elementary School. When he's not deployed or serving as a traditional "part-time" Air Guardsman at the Louisville-based 123rd Airlift Wing, Raymond works full-time in the Shelby County school district's maintenance division, and his wife, Dawn, is the school's secretary.
"Our students know him and his wife very well," Herndon said. "For us to adopt and support him was just an extension of the family that we have here already. It is also a great way for our students to see that the world is larger than their own community. It gives them the chance to broaden their scope of knowledge."
In addition to the letters, the students have sent care packages of cookies and special treats. The cards and pictures they included line the walls in Raymond's living quarters. The fourth-graders also sent him a classroom t-shirt bearing the school logo.
"It was awesome to see him wearing our shirt and showing us around his room in Afghanistan with all of our stuff on the walls," said Joshua Sponel, 9, recalling one of the two times Raymond was able to Skype with the class. "He got all teary and started to cry when he saw us, but it was still really cool!"
In exchange, Raymond has sent the students many letters, pictures and an American flag.
"We flew his flag over our school during our Veteran's Day show," said Madalyn Kampschafer, 10. "It was really great to pull it up the flag pole for everyone to see when they came in the building."
Currently, the flag is making its way through the district to each school building, where it will fly in honor of Raymond and the 12 other deployed members of his unit, the 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, where Raymond serves as an assistant ramp services supervisor.
"Everyone in the school district has been amazing and very supportive," said Dawn Raymond, wiping tears from her eyes. "It is very difficult to be away from someone you love. Having this kind of support every day makes the time spent apart much easier. All of the staff members here and all of the students have reached out to us in so many ways; it's just truly wonderful."
The importance of community and family support is a sentiment shared by Lt. Col. Jeffrey Wilkinson, 123rd Airlift Wing vice commander, who visited Raymond's adopted classroom along with other members of the wing to offer his appreciation.
"I want to thank all of you for your special letters, cards and packages sent to our Airmen, and especially to Staff Sgt. Raymond," Wilkinson said to the students. "It is so important for our Airmen to be able to connect to a little piece of home and know the job they are performing is appreciated by many who care for them."
Sponel summed up his support by explaining that he's writing to the Airman "because he's in the military fighting for our freedom and he needs our help."