The fifth and sixth grade students at Albert City-Truesdale normally exchange gifts during the Christmas celebration in their classroom. But this year, they decided to buy gifts for one of America's heroes and hometown boy Josh Peterson. He is a member of the U.S. Army and is stationed in Iraq.
The gifts were sent to Peterson and were very much appreciated, he told them in person as he stopped by their classroom Friday during his two-week rest and relaxation spent in Albert City. He shared a little bit of geography - as he described his location in northern Iraq which sits near the Turkey border; math - as they calculated how much weight he carried each day wearing the required gear; and history - as he talked about the war he is proudly helping to fight.
He answered the many questions the curious students had - including ones that were difficult to speak about - and showed them several pictures of his living quarters and Humvees and equipment he and his fellow soldiers are required to wear for protection.
The students were amazed to hear that the soldiers eat regular food (and provided lots of it) and that they are able to use computers and have access to television. Areas on their base also provide the soldiers with places to go and relax; pool tables and video games are the most widely used. He added that he and his buddies take part in basketball, football and softball games to during their free time to beat the stress.
Peterson's troop is located in the mountains and it is more rocky than the sandy terrain most think of when imagining Iraq. There are leafy trees and many of the same animals found here; he hasn't seen many camels, he told the students. Though the high temperatures have been 120 degrees, there has also been a little snow in the mountain areas where he is located.
His job is to refuel the much-used vehicles in the camp and follow the convoys out on missions in case fuel is needed. Guard duty is also required of the soldiers.
He told the students that he doesn't particularly like people of the media, who report to the rest of the world only the negative things.
"They report the things they think the public wants to hear. They have no idea what's going on."
He is disappointed the people in America aren't hearing the good things that the soldiers are doing. Currently, many soldiers are training the Iraqi soldiers and police so they may take care of their own people. He is dedicated, just like so many of the soldiers and he doesn't believe the Iraqi people are quite ready to stand on their own without the soldiers - "but they are getting there," he said.
Peterson, son of Stan and Carol Peterson, is a 2001 Albert City-Truesdale High School graduate. He is married and he and his wife Maralyn have a 4-year-old daughter, Savannah. He enlisted in the Army on a three-year hitch but reenlisted for four more years. He has been stationed in Korea, where he had the opportunity to meet Donald Rumsfeld. Currently his home base is in El Paso, Texas. His deployment is expected to be up in November ; he will return to Texas when he returns.
He is thankful to the AC-T kids and their concern for him.
Peterson is proud to be an American.
"It makes me appreciate what we're doing so much more," he said. "It's not easy. We've been through a lot of rough times for everyone - but we'll get through it."
The students of Mrs. Wenell's sixth grade class and Miss Sporrer's fifth grade class will continue to keep in touch with Peterson throughout the school year.