Saturday, December 23, 2006

Star Power

We heard the sonic boom produced by the shuttle Discovery yesterday as it prepared to land in Florida. It zipped across the sky overhead and the folks at Johnson Space Center went outside to check on seeing it in the sky. Don't worry, those in the command center stayed at their stations! The others couldn't see it, though. The husband arrived home from the office in time to watch the Discovery land with me and it was picture perfect even with somewhat dicey weather conditions. It never ceases to leave me with a sense of awe.

Besides being an astronaut in a perfect world, the husband would also be a scientist discovering the wonders of the world. The sighting and photos taken of the giant squid off the coast of Japan delighted him to no end. This is the stuff that really excites him.

Politics for me, science for him.

The unincorporated community of Etoile in east Texas has a double digit populaton and 140 students at the school serving grades K-8. Etoile is the French word for star.

Last May, a bus loaded with U.S. Army troops from Fort Hood broke down in the Angelina National Forest, according to a recent Houston Chronicle article. About 40 soldiers from the "Warhorse Battalion" were heading to Iraq after some grueling training at Fort Polk. While waiting for a bus dispatched from Houston, the soldiers were treated to a spaghetti dinner, courtesy of the volunteer fire department and a pleasant visit with the students at the school. The students were excited to talk to the soldiers, ask questions of them and get an up close look at their gear. The school superintendent said the soldiers were great with the kids and must have answered a thousand questions from them. He sent school buses to pick them up and bring them to the school's air-conditioned cafeteria to be comfortable while they waited for replacement transportation.

In June, the soldiers' commanders returned to the community to present certificates of appreciation, one to the school and one to the Fire Department.

Feeling they had been properly thanked by the soldiers, the community was surprised to learn of another gesture from them. The 1st Cavalry Division soldiers honored the town with "Operation Etoile", converting an enemy-infested area in Iraq into open space. The mission cleaned out the anti-coalition elements who were planting roadside bombs and launching attacks on passing U.S. and Iraqi troops.

The "Warhorse" soldiers, with the help of engineers with 9 bulldozers, removed dirt mounds and brush being used as cover for the attackers. A lookout tower was destroyed. In the name of the people of Etoile, a soccer field was made and villagers were given clothes and toys by U.S. troops as the work was being completed.

"The community's help was not forgotten," said the dispatch from Capt. Gregory Stopyra in Baqouba, Iraq. "The Warhorse leadership decided upon the name of 'Etoile' for this operation. This French word for 'star' now represents a tremendous success for the Warhorse Battalion."

"We had a ball, " said Etoile Superintendent Andy Trekell.


srp said...

And how appropriate on this Christmas Eve.... A "star" led the wise men to the manger and the Christ Child.

Have a lovely Christmas Karen!

Anonymous said...

An example of the men and women who defend us, their character and capabilities. I do wonder that they are the cream of our people. I like too that you bring the school's reaction to soldiers within their midst. If all of us, particularly in education, would honor them not denigrate but teach their valued place in America, our enemies would be much more concerned of our politicians pronouncements.
Our media, of what country are they? Only a story where one soldier out of hundreds of thousands doing wrong is worthy of print reaches us.
Yours is a great re-telling of an every day occurrence that would not be seen otherwise.
I love science, even though such squid live deep in the briny blue, it's another reason to stay out of the ocean.

Beverly said...

A beautiful story for the Christmas Eve. Thanks for sharing it with us. Merry Christmas, Karen.