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School children send patriotic support to 'home team'

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFPN) -- Handmade posters and drawings depicting the American flag have made the journey from Dothan, Ala., to special operations troops forward-deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Children from Dothan's Girard Elementary School wanted to show their support for the military, especially the men and women of Air Force Special Operations Command's 280th Combat Communications Squadron, of the Alabama Air National Guard, located in Dothan.

The 280th CBCS is the only National Guard communications squadron within AFSOC.

"Our public affairs coordinator received several flags from Mrs. Andrea Faulk, principal at Girard Elementary, and asked if there was a way to get these posters to people deployed for Enduring Freedom," said Maj. Robert Bell, director of operations for the 280th CBCS. "Many of the posters had been done last school year but were unable to be sent with our personnel, for various reasons, until recently."

Because of security concerns, well-wishers outside immediate families have not been able to send packages and gifts to troops supporting America's global war on terrorism. But, Bell knew a way to get at least some of the items to troops in the Afghan theater.

"I was set to deploy to the theater and knew I could hand carry some of the items with me," he said.

Packed away in a few boxes, the major carried the handmade flags to the deployment location. After arriving, he did what he could to get the items to other locations in the area.

"In my travels as a military member, I have seen little reminders of home that each servicemember brings to deployed locations. Some have pictures of their family either on the desk, hanging on the inside of the tent, stuck to the dash of the vehicle, or taped to the inside of their helmet," said the major. "Each item is a reminder of why we are here."

The posters from the elementary students meant a great deal to the major and to all the troops who shared in the artwork. In a note to Faulk, Bell thanked the teachers and the students for their efforts.

"Your students' handmade posters have done so much to help increase the morale of the troops. As we concentrate on doing the task at hand, we periodically need to step back, regroup, and recall why we are here. Your school's posters did just that. Thank you!" he wrote.

"Each flag, with messages from the children on the back, is proudly displayed around the facilities here," Bell wrote. "I speak for every person that puts on a military uniform. We do this to ensure our children, our family, our friends, and our neighbors have an opportunity to grow up and live in the greatest country in the world, the United States of America.

"Please pass along my thanks to your staff at Girard Elementary School for what they do every day to instill patriotism along with compassion in those that they teach."

Members of the 280th CBCS have been supporting Operation Enduring Freedom from the onset, said Bell. Many of the squadron members were activated within days of the September terrorist attacks.

"I am so proud of our members for stepping forward without hesitation, their families for providing the stability and encouragement at home to the servicemember, the community for the outpouring of support and encouragement to people that they would not even recognize if they met them walking down the street, and the employers for standing behind our servicemembers," said Bell.

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