All the pre-kindergarten students gather around their friend, Steve Pietila from the Michigan Army National Guard, after welcoming him home.
IRON RIVER—On Wednesday, May 8, students in Denise Maloney’s pre-kindergarten class marched down to the principal’s office, dressed in red, white, and blue and carrying American flags, to welcome Sgt. Steve Pietila home from his deployment in Afghanistan and into their classroom.
Leading the students was Pietila’s son, Jared.
During his visit to the classroom, Pietila shared treasures he had brought back with him and spoke a little about his job, making sure roads were clear and safe for others to travel on.
While deployed for nine months, Maloney sent updates on Jared’s school activities and spoke to the class about how important Pietila’s job was.
“We still wanted to keep him a big part of Jared’s day-do-day life, even though he was across the world,” she said. “We did this by talking about Jared’s dad very often in our classroom and what an important job he was doing--to help people to be safe.”
Maloney often took photos of Jared and his friends doing classroom activities and school functions like the Christmas program. She sent class schedules so Pietila could keep up with what he was doing at school and talk to him about his day on Skype at night.
“Sometimes after class, I would send Steve a quick email just filling him in Jared’s day, who he played with, something funny he said, what we did,” she said. “Just trying to keep him in the loop.”
The entire class took part last Veterans Day, when they made a card for him and sent it to him along with photos.
“It was a journey that our entire class navigated with him,” Maloney said.
When the classroom found out that he was returning home, they planned a grand celebration for him, which took place May 8.
“It is servicemen and women like Steve that protect our country that make me so proud. Every single day,” Maloney said.