Children First: Helping Military Kids

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Poplar Springs Elementary is trying to help students who have family members in the military and at war to cope with that absence.

Sometimes all it takes is a talk with someone who cares. Deborah Johnson, a teacher at Poplar Springs Elementary School knows all too well. She has a son in Iraq.

"So I make it my business to greet them and give them a hug and to just talk with them," Johnson said.

Seven of the children's parents at the school, along with Johnson's son Spec. Darius Ewing, are part of the 150th Combat Engineer Battalion based in Meridian.

"I know that it's not just my family over there fighting for our freedom," said Jalen Heath, a fifth grader. "There are other people as well."

The school has adopted the battalion, and over the months, has sent care packages, letters and held a ceremony in its honor, all to keep a positive frame of mind.

From time to time, the students bring in pictures of their loved ones and talk about plans when their relative returns.

"My dad and everyone else is coming home for 15 days in June. It feels nice because I can see him again and we can go get snow cones," said Samantha Labutka, who is in fourth grade.

Common ground has formed a special bond between these students and their teacher.

"I look at them as my kids," Johnson said.