A class of Augusta Preparatory Day School fourth-graders got firsthand answers about war recently from two officers who were deployed to the Middle East.
Army 1st Lts. Rachel Withers and Johanna Thomp-son visited the pupils Oct. 3 to thank them and to answer questions the pupils had asked them in letters written last school year.
Withers returned to Fort Gordon from a four-month deployment in Iraq last month, and Thompson's seven-month tour in Afghanistan ended in July.
Earlier this year, the then-third graders in Mary Carpenter's language arts class wrote the two officers from the Fort Gordon-based 513th Military Intelligence Brigade and a third officer, Marine 1st Lt. David Kunes, who is deployed in Iraq.
In their letters, the pupils expressed their support and asked the three service members what life is like being deployed in a war zone.
"'Where do you sleep?' 'What do you eat?' 'It must be really noisy over there,'" Withers said describing the questions. "A lot of them were actually very vocally supportive of the war effort. ... It was nice to hear."
Many pupils wrote in their letters that they were surprised that women are deployed in times of war.
"As intelligence officers, we get very close to the fight," Thompson said. "We get scared for the soldiers we have to protect, and (we) have to provide the best intelligence to the guys who are fighting to say where the bad guys are."
Other pupils asked in their letters whether Withers and Thompson enjoyed fighting. Thompson said that was a complicated question, because their role as intelligence officers places them in support of the front line.
"It's not a fun thing to be at war, in any war," Thompson said. "But it's a very important job and an interesting life experience to be able to support your country. I don't like fighting, but I do like what I do."
Mike Burley, the cross country coach at Augusta Prep, who helped set up the correspondence, called the visit an educational experience for the class.
"It gives them a different perspective," he said. It was an important learning tool to hear from women in the armed services, he said.
"There are a lot of women in the military who do very important jobs," he said.
Withers and Thompson are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan at the end of November.
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