Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Carie: US Army & Kindergarten Teacher

I'm 'thankful' to be a part of this collaboration. I'm a Kindergarten teacher now, but I have another earlier and rather unique  part of my own story.

Veteran’s Day is near and dear to my heart because I am a Veteran.
I served in the Army Reserves for over 9 years. The reason I joined the Army was to serve overseas and fight for my country. I didn’t care about getting college paid for or getting recognition for my service but just to give back to my country. In September of 2004, the last year of my service and the first year of my marriage, that dream became a reality and I was deployed to Iraq with a unit from Missouri (not my home state).
I was deployed with a unit made up of people from all over the United States. I only knew 5 people that I was deployed with. The wonderful part was, a friend of mine who I had been friends with since kindergarten, was deployed a month earlier with a different unit. My first week on the job, we ran into each other. It was so amazing and comforting seeing such a familiar face! I served overseas for 12 months but was away from home a total of 15 months.

My job in the Army was an Ammunition Specialist. My job consisted of inventorying, repairing, re-packaging, shipping and receiving ammunition used during war. I did this for just a short time while I was deployed when they decided to change my job. I became the training NCO for our company. This changed my daily duties from dealing with ammunition to training other soldiers. Right up my alley and exactly what I had gone to college for, to TEACH!! I was ecstatic!

As I mentioned earlier, it was my first year of marriage, which made leaving home that much harder. I got married in July of 2004, I found out I was getting deployed the beginning of August and left home the beginning of September. It was a whirlwind of emotions, and change in my life in such a short amount of time! The deployment was interesting, sad, exciting, maddening, stressful and so many other emotions wrapped into one long year!

We were on a base that was constantly being mortared (bombed). The enemy knew that we were the base with all the ammo and so of course they wanted to take it out. Each time we were mortared, the sirens would sound and we would have to go to the bunkers until "all clear" was called and it was safe to get back to duty. This was a regular occurrence in the day of a soldier there.

When I came home for 2 weeks of rest and relaxation, it was a happy time but yet a very scary time. I had been deployed for 7 months at that point and came home only to find out that although MY civilian world had been put on hold; my husband’s and my family’s civilian lives had continued on. This was a HUGE adjustment for me and hard for me to understand. I traveled back to Iraq sad and confused and just wanting to be home for good. Thank goodness for all of the good friends I had made during deployment because they kept me going and kept me focused on the mission. Five more months and I could go home for good!

The biggest adjustment was coming home permanently. For a whole year, I was in another country with a new "family" and new friends, living with a roommate and showering in cold water, wearing 40lbs of gear everyday and living in 140 degree heat! Then to come home and re-adjust to the civilian world where most people close to me didn’t understand where I had been and what I had been through. I felt like a stranger in my own home. I felt like I was meeting my husband for the first time and learning all of his new quirks and personality. It was then I realized that when couples are living together, they grow and change together as a couple, but when they are separated from each other for 15 months, they grow and change apart. My husband and I basically had to start over. We had to find that connection that brought us together in the first place. This didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen in 3 months, it took a long time and we still work at it to this day.

The next step in my life was to move from teaching adults, to teaching children! I was so excited!
I dove right into substitute teaching (mostly middle school). I took the discipline that I had learned and taught in the military and used it to earn the respect of the students. I also used my story to teach those middle school children about history and current events. My story captivated their attention and left them wanting to learn more. I was so excited to be able to share my story and make it learning experience for children of all ages.

A kindergarten opening became available in the district in which I was substitute teaching and I applied. Now here I am today as a kindergarten teacher, teaching my students about patriotism! Each year for Halloween, I dress up in my Desert Camouflage Uniform to show them that I was a soldier, now a Veteran. I have also designed a showcase dedicated to the soldiers and Veterans related to the students and staff at our school.

Now that you know a little bit of my history, you may understand why Veteran’s Day is so important to me and how each year I try to come up with a new and better way to teach my kindergartners about what Veterans are and why we celebrate them. After meeting Debbie Clement last year and falling in love with her book "Red, White and Blue" I can’t imagine not using it to help teach about patriotism and Veterans. Here's a picture of the quilt that we created last spring, in response to her book. We finished our 19 by 11 foot 'marble-painted' quilt last spring, just in time for Memorial Day. [Click here to see the blog posts about that process.]

This year I needed a new project to do to go with it for my new students. So, while thinking about what kind of project I wanted to do, I came across Michaele Sommerville’s blog, titled "Veterans, We Love You". After reading her blog-post and tearing up, I decided I had to do this project. I took Michaele’s idea to use an open heart and affix the stars in an AB pattern on the heart. But in my mind, I envisioned a quilt, so I was thinking something smaller. That is when I decided to cut out 4 inch white hearts on the Ellison and 1 ½ inch red and blue stars on my Cricut.

Each student was given 6 stars (3 red and 3 blue) and then glued them on in an AB pattern. Then I cut out 6" x 6" purple squares and the students glued their hearts in the center of the square. To complete our quilt, I needed something else but I wasn’t sure what I quite wanted. It was then, right in the middle of my lesson, that I realized I still had extra hearts!! I had the solid hearts left from when I cut out hearts from the Ellison AND I had left over stars! This is when the light came on! I gave each student a solid heart and either a blue or red star to glue in the center of the heart.

Then I gave them another 6"x6" purple square and had them glue it in the center. I must say the students LOVED the project and wanted to share it with everyone! So we did! We taped the pieces of our quilt together and laminated it, then hung it above the "Support Our Troops" showcase in the hallway. My students are so proud and each time they walk by it, they point and say "We made that", "Hey; there is my square on the quilt"! So here you go, here is our quilt that we are so proud of!

I'm thankful to have the opportunity to weave all of my experience together: from the discipline of my experience in the Army to my appreciation for being home again, teaching in Kindergarten. I look forward to sharing from my classroom over the months ahead!!


  1. Fabulous post Carie! I love seeing your version of my students' project: hearts and stars are the perfect combination for a display to honor our nation's veterans. If you didn't know, I'm a proud Army/MP wife, teaching on a military post, so your experiences regarding the different lives you've had to lead as a military soldier and as a civilian wife and teacher speak to me.

    Thank you for your service as both a soldier and a teacher.

    Happy Thanksgiving,


  2. Thank you for serving on our behalf. I'm appreciating you today and every day! Happy Thanksgiving, Carie, I'm happy we'll be collaborating.


  3. Michaele, Thank you! And thank you for such a wonderful project! I didn't know that you were a Army wife AND that you teach on a military post! What an honor! and what a joy! Kudos to you! I thank you for your sacrifices as an Army wife a d all you do for children and I also thank your husband for his service to this wonderful country we call home!

    Barbara, Thank you for your kind words! I am very excited to be collaborating with such amazing people!

    I hope you both had a wonderful Thanksgiving!


  4. Wow ... what an inspiration you are, Carie! Thank you so much for all the sacrifices you've made. The work you're doing as a kindergarten teacher is awesome, too, and you're an amazing role model for your students. So glad to meet you! :) Deb @

  5. Thank you, Carie for your outstanding patriotism. I applaud you sharing it with children! I wonder if this could be on the Valentine's Linky Party since it has hearts?

  6. I loved hearing your story. As I am sure the children do.You are an inspiration to us all!!Keep up the wonderful work you are doing with those Kindergarteners. And for being the brave lady that you are!!


We would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment below....

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...