• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Woodford Christian students pray for those who serve

A TOY SOLDIER, like this one held by Army National Guardsman Stephen Martin, was given to every student at Woodford Christian School as a reminder “to pray for veterans and active military,” Principal Cara Meadows said. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

STUDENTS JOINED HANDS with teachers and parents at Woodford Christian School before saying a prayer for veterans and active-duty military men and women. Army National Guardsman Stephen Martin is pictured with his wife, Nicole, and their daughter, Kylie, holding both of her parents’ hands. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Kentucky Army National Guardsman Stephen Martin shared his own military experiences with students at Woodford Christian School before joining them in prayer for the men and women who are serving or have served.

It was an opportunity to remind students of their sacrifices and why this country has a Veterans’ Day on Nov. 11 of each year.

Kindergarten teacher Emily Woodside provided each student at WCS with a toy soldier as a reminder “to pray for veterans and active military,” said Principal Cara Meadows. She said Woodside’s brother is currently serving his country. “Everybody’s going to take (a toy soldier) home with you,” Woodside told students. “And this can sit on your kitchen counter. This can sit on your coffee table in your living room. This can sit on your nightstand by your bed – and every time you see it, guess what you’re going to think about?

“(It will remind you) to pray for our military men and women; to pray for those who have already served and who are home; to pray for those family members whose loved ones didn’t come home.”

Before he read a story to students on Nov. 10, Martin urged them to thank a veteran for his or her service. And he talked about why this country has a Veterans’ Day.

“This year is the 100th anniversary of World War I in 1918,” he said. “So really we’re celebrating 100 years of veterans as well as World War I.”

Martin told students that there are over one million men and women currently serving the United States in almost every country in the world. Soldiers with the Kentucky Army National Guard are preparing for deployments to Kuwait and Iraq, he said.

Martin, a helicopter pilot, joined the Army when he was a 17-year-old student at Woodford County High School. Now 36, the major has been deployed to Kosovo and Afghanistan. When Martin returned from his deployment to Afghanistan in August 2015, he surprised his two children, Elijah and Kylie, at Woodford Christian School.

He described seeing his wife, Nicole, and their children again as “one of my favorite moments ever.” Hearing his daughter scream, “Daddy” and seeing his son “tear up, and both run over (to me) was just an amazing experience,” he said.

While reflecting on that homecoming, Meadows said,

“We’ve kind of walked with their family while he was overseas serving” our country.

Nearly half of the students who attended last week’s commemoration of Veterans’ Day at Woodford Christian School, raised their hands when asked if someone in their family has served in the military.

“It is an extreme honor to come in and get to represent the military … and help educate (students) on the sacrifice of so many veterans – especially those who are deployed right now,” said Martin during an interview.

He said those military men and women will be “away from their families on Veterans’ Day and as we transition into Thanksgiving and Christmas and the holidays.

“Just remember that we are blessed to have a group of folks who are willing to defend our nation and step out and do something greater than themselves,” which he said was his calling to serve.

“While it’s really hard to be away from friends and family and be deployed overseas it’s … an opportunity to do what you’re trained to do,” Martin told students. He and his wife are both graduates of Woodford County High School, and live in Versailles.

The story read by Martin kicked off “Read Your Heart Out Day” at WCS. Meadows continued her annual tradition of reading to students in an RV parked outside the school.

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