Army Sgt. C.J. Yurk hands out American flag patches
Julie Griessmeyer's kindergarten class last week at
Jackson Elementary School. Yurk's niece is a student in
the class. Photo by
Bruce Halmo/The Sheboygan Press.
A Sheboygan sergeant home from Afghanistan got a
hero's welcome last week - from a kindergarten classroom.
Sgt. C.J. Yurk, 27, shipped out with the Sheboygan-based
330th Military Police Detachment in October for a one-year tour in
Afghanistan. His unit controls customs at the main Air Force base in
He spent the winter exchanging e-mails
and notes with unlikely pen pals: a kindergarten class at Jackson
Elementary School. His niece is in the class.
on leave, Yurk finally stopped in to meet the children who called him a
hero. "CJ's here!" they yelled, erupting into cheers when he quietly
walked into their classroom room in his military
"Maybe some day you can be a hero just like
CJ, because he really is the biggest and best hero in the world,"
teacher Julie Griessmeyer told the students.
first heard from Jackson last December, when the kindergartners'
families wrote notes to him that were shipped out in a care package. He
responded by e-mail to the teacher, and the kindergartners quickly grew
attached to their long-distance idol.
He joined the
class in person last Wednesday and folded himself onto a small chair in
front of the kindergartners. The children quizzed Yurk on where he
sleeps (his own room), whether he has any tanks or weapons (yes) and
what the weather is like in Afghanistan (similar to
He described the dirt roads that are only as
wide as a car and explained where he got his
"It's the latest and greatest from the
military," he joked. "This is what I wear every
Then he presented the kindergartners with a
gift - he had asked a pilot to carry a U.S. flag in a fighter jet over
Afghanistan. Yurk boxed up the flag and brought it to
"You guys get to keep this for your class,"
The sergeant wrapped up his 20-minute visit
by handing out a patch with the U.S. flag, one that matched the patch
on his own uniform, to every student. The kids eagerly jumped in line
and chattered about where they would stick their patch.
"This guy is so cool!" one child said.
"You know what? I think you're the coolest guy ever," another awestruck
student told him.
The students returned the favor
by handing Yurk a new batch of handwritten notes, scribbled in class
earlier that day.
"Hello. My name is ___. I like
you, CJ, so so so much," one student wrote. "Hello. My name is ___. I
like robots. Cars and trucks go on the road. I am 6 years old," wrote
Yurk - who previously served with his unit
in Iraq from March 2004 to February 2005 - said he will proudly hang
the letters in his office, adding to the collection he started in
"I liked that," he said. "It definitely
made being away from home a whole lot easier."
returns to Afghanistan on April 12.
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