Army Reservists visit Sunflower students

Sunflower School students listen to US Army Reserve soldiers speak Friday at the school. The soldiers spoke to the students about their civilian lives and their past deployments. The Reservists will leave Monday for a yearlong mission to Iraq.

Seven Iraq-bound soldiers paid a visit to students at Sunflower School on Friday.

The Army Reservists from the 538th Transportation Company Detachment, which is training at Fort Riley, talked to second- and sixth-graders about what it means to be deployed.

“We all come together to do one thing, and that is to serve in the military, and you’re the reason we do that,” said 2nd Lt. John Barbee, who has two children, Sanders and John, at Sunflower.

Several of the soldiers have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and gave the students some insight into what those places are like.

“If you thought snowstorms were bad, you should see a sandstorm,” said Spc. Paul Fancy, who has served in Kuwait and Afghanistan.

The soldiers, who will deliver supplies to troops in the field, listened to the young students as they shared some of their own tales of loved ones who have served in the wars.

Barbee said it can be difficult to talk to children about war.

“Sometimes as grown-ups, we don’t even understand it,” he said. “What they (kids) see on CNN or a blurb in the newspaper is all they get, but as long as they understand that we volunteer to do what we do there – and we like doing what we do.”

Phyllis Buchele, a school librarian, said it was valuable for the kids to see soldiers up close and personal, rather than on the news.

“These are soldiers, but they have regular jobs. That gives the kids a personal connection to the soldiers,” she said.

Barbee said he hopes the students will send letters to the troops while they are on their yearlong deployment.

“That really does keep us motivated and keeps us going to do what we do,” he said. “Sometimes it does get hard.”