By Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Quick
U.S. Division North
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq, May 3, 2011 – Smiles crossed the faces of students at Kingman Academy in Kingman, Ariz., as their anticipation and excitement finally ended and they put a face to the name.
As the door to the auditorium opened, the students watched as a man in an Army uniform entered -- a man they did not know by name, but who they regarded as an American hero.
Army Pfc. Kenneth Johnson, a Las Vegas native, spent an afternoon with students of the Kingman Academy earlier this year discussing the Army’s mission in Iraq during Operation New Dawn.
An intelligence analyst serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, Johnson took a day during his environmental morale leave from Iraq to thank the people who supported him from afar.
“They took the time to put together care packages and write letters to the soldiers of the battalion, so I wanted to give them something back to let them know their efforts were appreciated,” Johnson said.
Johnson presented the students and staff with the flag flown over the 2nd Battalion’s headquarters at Contingency Operating Site Warrior in Kirkuk, Iraq. He also gave students 12th Cavalry Regimental crests in appreciation of their continuous efforts to support the “Thunderhorse” Battalion soldiers.
“I asked permission to thank them before I left [Iraq],” Johnson said. “My chain of command thought it was a great idea, and they fully supported it.”
Johnson spoke to the students about the role and mission the Army fulfills during Operation New Dawn as American forces continue to advise, train, and assist their Iraqi counterparts as well as the challenges, experiences and realities of being a deployed soldier. He wrapped up his discussion with a lively question-and-answer session with the students.
“They were very excited, and [my visit] motivated them to continue to do what they are doing for us,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s unit recently recognized his efforts to give back to unit supporters, presenting him with an Army Achievement Medal. But the real reward, he said, was to know how much people care.
“Throughout the whole experience, I felt slightly overwhelmed and prideful to know people at home still care about us,” he said.