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Jackson Kindergarten Class Gets to Meet Its Pen Pal Who's Home for a Visit from Afghanistan
Army Sgt. C.J. Yurk hands out American flag patches to
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 Afghanistan.

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.

Home 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 garb.

"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.

Yurk 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 here).

He described the dirt roads that are only as wide as a car and explained where he got his uniform.

"It's the latest and greatest from the military," he joked. "This is what I wear every day."

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 Jackson.

"You guys get to keep this for your class," he said.

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 another.

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 December.

"I liked that," he said. "It definitely made being away from home a whole lot easier."

Yurk returns to Afghanistan on April 12.

Sheboygan Press Article - Kate McGinty

Sheboygan Area School District Press Release
April 5, 2009