Soldier Toy Delivery

Soldiers deliver toys to school
By: Todd Martin
Skipcha Elementary School’s special soldier friends delivered gifts for a group of children Monday, continuing a holiday tradition that seems to mean as much to the givers as the recipients.
A dozen or so soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, dressed in camouflage, but bearing bags similar to a certain seasonal elf, interacted with a few children and family members during delivery.
Spc. Lonnie Hernandez, the unit’s adopt-a-school liaison with the school, said the soldiers have built a strong bond with the campus of more than 1,100 students at Harker Heights in Killeen ISD.
They participated earlier this semester in a 911 freedom walk, as well as with the school’s Special Olympics team members and served food during a Thanksgiving meal.
“They have come to everything we’ve asked them to come to,” said Skipcha Principal Jane Apodaca. “They even came to teach some of our students to fold the flag properly so we could have a flag team.”
Two years ago, Hernandez said, an officer in his unit suggested a toy drive to benefit a local school. The soldiers got on board and the drive has grown.
“It was a major success,” he said of the past drives and this year’s version. “We deployed and came back and wanted to do it again. It’s an honor to be a part of this.”
Parents who were available came to the school library where they met with their children and the soldiers. There were plenty of gifts for all.
“For me, it’s always good to step away and get back to the root of why I joined the Army – to make people happy,” Hernandez said.
One grandmother, picking up gifts for her daughter’s five children, said the unit’s generosity was an expected blessing.
“It means a lot for our family,” Sherri Powers said. “It’s really tough for them at Christmas, so this is greatly appreciated. They were totally grateful.”
Students delivered a stack of hand-written pictures and thank-you notes for the soldiers.
“Anytime we can have them,” Apodaca said, “we like to have our soldiers here.”