Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Clovis after-school program adds to students' experiences

Staff Sgt. David Sanchez shares his war experiences Monday with sixth-graders Debra Lewis and Stephen Savage at James Bickley Elementary. (Staff photo: Mike Linn)

When roughly 150 young students Monday asked what it was like to be in war, Cannon Air Force Base Staff Sgt. David Sanchez answered with an illustration:

The Air Force firefighter asked the after school students at James Bickley Elementary to close their eyes and imagine themselves sitting on a peaceful night with their friends and family around a table at their home. When the entire gymnasium fell silent and all eyes were closed, Sanchez suddenly yelled, “Boom!” into the microphone, setting the K-6 grade students into a wild uproar.

It took about a minute for all the students to settle down. But after the presentation they went out with the sponsors to write letters to soldiers in Iraq.

The program was set up to show school children the importance of showing their support for the soldiers serving overseas.

“We’re writing holiday cards for soldiers that are in Iraq right now,” said Jenny Sanchez, after school program coordinator and wife of David Sanchez. “This is to provide the students with an awareness, an appreciation for the men who are serving our country.”

David Sanchez spoke about how difficult it was to spend Christmas in Iraq away from home. Then he said he received a written letter from a young student in North Carolina. He said the letter lifted his spirits and reassured him of the reasons he was serving.

“It’s a great feeling to have those kids write a soldier,” he said. “I’ve heard you guys were writing letters as well, and I want you to know, as being one of those people who received those letters, that it really meant a lot to me.”

David Sanchez started by showing a slide show of pictures he and his buddies snapped in Iraq with a Scottish rendition of Amazing Grace playing in the background. Sanchez then told stories about his stints in Afghanistan and later in Iraq.

Then he took questions.

One student asked, “Do you wear a yellow jacket when you put the fire out?”

David Sanchez said no, that the uniform looks more like tin foil and protects him in heat up to 900 degrees.

“If someone were to put me in an oven, I would be just fine,” he said.

Another student asked if any of his friends had been killed in the war. Sanchez said he was very lucky none were.

Monday’s program at James Bickley was part of a larger after school program in Clovis schools.

“We are providing the extra enrichment for these kids after school,” said after-school director Steve Baldock. “A lot of these kids are struggling in certain areas, and this gives them the opportunity to get something a little different.”