View Full Version : Marine Corps Veteran Meets Biggest Fans

03-10-2007, 03:59 AM
So Touching....:salute:

Marine Corps Veteran Meets Biggest Fans
By Jesse Muņoz
Signal Staff Writer

Friday March 9, 2007

U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Mark Alexander Coates received a hero's greeting at Valencia Valley Elementary school on Thursday, as students waved flags and sang the Marine hymn in welcoming him home from Iraq.

As a 26-year veteran of the Corps and member of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Coates served tours in Iraq in 2003, 2004 and 2006 before returning home in February with plans to retire.

But it was during his most recent tour that Coates was adopted by Valencia Valley teacher Judi Hayward's fifth-grade class, which proceeded to send the Marine a collection of care packages, letters, Christmas presents and Valentine cards over the course of the last year.

"I just brought in a box and asked the kids 'who wants to bring something for him,' and 'what do you think he would like,'" Hayward said about how the long-distance relationship first started. "They brought sunflower seeds, and cookies and nuts, and Chapstick and candy and international calling cards. ... It was just so much I could hardly even mail it all."

No doubt thankful for the time and effort students spent to provide him and his fellow Marines with such thoughtful gifts, Coates promised to visit the students after returning stateside.

"You are the first class I have ever received letters from, that's why I wanted to come up here and personally thank you," said Coates, 43, who is currently stationed outside San Diego. "I thank you all very much for your care packages and your letters. ... I got your Valentine's Day cards, they were awesome. I got to read every one of them, and I loved them."

After being met in the parking lot and escorted into the school by two class representatives - who carried Coates' flak jacket and equipment bag - students were cued to perform the first two lines of the Marine Corps hymn, before returning to the classroom for a pre-lunch chat.

"So everyone wants to know about Iraq, right?" Coates asked the group of wide-eyed and excited students. "Has everyone been out in the desert before? Well it's like the desert out there, with a lot of sand."

"And it's hot," Coates said in describing the temperatures that can soar past the 130-degree mark. "I can tell you that 132 degrees doesn't feel much different than 100 (degrees)."

Coates went on to show off some of his battle gear and passed around a 1-inch-thick armor plate which was worn under his flak jacket.

"This is just part of my gear I had to wear out there," Coates explained. "On average it's about 70 pounds on my back."

Students were then given the chance to pepper Coates with questions ranging from if he "liked any Greek mythology" to "what inspired you to become a Marine" and "what are some of the good things about the war?"

"I wanted to continue on with my schooling, because that's very important, but I also wanted to get on with my career, too," answered Coates to the "why you joined the Marines" question posed by fifth-grader Christopher Marton. "So I decided to join the military. The Marine Corps, I just thought the uniforms looked the best."

In discussing some of the positive aspects of the war, Coates talked about some of the newfound freedom the Iraqi people now enjoy and the work he and his fellow Marines did to build schools in the areas where they were stationed.

"You see a lot of bad about everything that is going on, but there's also a lot of good," Coates said.

Because Hayward's class had been so generous with him, Coates returned the favor by presenting students with a number of gifts - a certificate of appreciation to the entire class for their prolonged support, a U.S. Marine Corps emblem pin, and bumper stickers emblazoned with the Marine Corps motto "Semper Fi."

"I have no greater pride than for this great country and my beloved Corps," said Coates in explaining the significance of the pin.

"Ask your Mom before you put this on the car," he said about the stickers.

Coates then joined students in the cafeteria - where he was seated as the guest of honor for a lunch of pizza, fruit and milk.

"It swells you up to know that there's so much support back here," said Coates about the caring response he received from students. "You can't help but want to come and see them. It's the greatest feeling in the world."

"It was the heartfelt parts," said Coates in sharing the words of one letter he received which wished him a safe return from Iraq. "Encouragement like that, to come from a 10-year-old, is just beyond belief. To read statements like that, these kids are just so inspirational, and it just makes us want to work that much harder."

As Coates sat down to enjoy both his lunch and the company of his new friends, students took time to reflect on the day's events.

"I think it's really amazing that we get to know someone that worked so hard in the war and really cares about keeping us safe," 11-year-old Lauren Yi said.

"I was just excited that he's home and safe and didn't get hurt," said Rachel Boatwright, 10. "It was really cool."

In addition to the joy of meeting his class of supporters, Coates was also pleased with the quality of his lunch.

"Compared to a (military-issued Meals Ready to Eat), anything is better," he said.http://www.the-signal.com/?module=displaystory&story_id=46889&format=html

03-10-2007, 07:53 AM
Yeah, those baby killin jarheads are just something else! (sarcasm)

I am amazed that some parent group or even the ACLU didn't step in for who knows what reason to stop the event from even happening.

03-10-2007, 10:16 AM
Yeah, those baby killin jarheads are just something else! (sarcasm)

I am amazed that some parent group or even the ACLU didn't step in for who knows what reason to stop the event from even happening.

They're still trying to perpetuate that "I support the troops" hogwash, as if anyone believes it.