Guardsman visits TES studentsPublished 11:00pm Thursday, May 2, 2013
Probably only a visit from St. Nick himself would have excited the fifth-grade students at Troy Elementary School more.
The students waited anxiously for a visit from a very important person Thursday afternoon.
Although the students knew TSgt. Michael Stephens only as the “soldier” they sent cards to at Christmas time, they knew he was one of the many men and women who defend freedom around the world and they were excited to meet him.
Stephens, a 17-year member of the Air National Guard, returned earlier in the week from a 198 day tour in Southwest Asia. He was as anxious to meet the students as they were to meet him.
Stephens said he was “surprised” to receive handmade Christmas cards from the students.
“Reading the cards were some of the hardest days of my tour,” he said. “I really appreciated the cards, but it was tough for me to read them. Reading them brought home back to me and made me realize, even more, how much I missed my family and home.”
Thanks to today’s technology, Stephens said he was able to talk to his family often and even got to “see” his sons play baseball.
The students were anxious to know what it is like to be a soldier. They wanted to know what Stephens did and what he saw while he was in Southwest Asia.
“The country there is very different from the country here,” he said. “There was no green grass over there. It’s all desert. When I flew into Germany, there was grass and trees. The colors were so bright that they hurt my eyes after being in the desert for so long.”
He told the students that camels are as prevalent where he was stationed as cattle are here in Pike County. He said camel spiders and scorpions were a concern.
“They do have shopping malls in some places and I had the chance to interact with the Iraqi Nationals,” he said. “But, to talk to the people I had to have a translator. It was an interesting place to be.”
As a civilian, Stephens is a firefighter with the Troy Fire Department. He told the students that he did basically the same thing as a soldier that he does as a firefighter.
“Over there, I drove a fire truck and we fought fires,” he said. “But we did many other things too. When you are in the military, the mission never stops.”
Stephens said he is happy to be home, but he is also very proud to serve his country.
“My dad was in the military for 40 years, so there was never any doubt in my mind that I would join the military,” he said. “I have two sons and I’m encouraging them to serve. Doing so, they can help the whole country.”
Stephens also has a daughter and, while he said he would not encourage her to enter the military, he would not discourage her either.
“A lot of women are serving in the military and they are doing a good job,” he said.
Stephens has about three years before he plans to retire from the Air National Guard. He has served five tours of duty in Southwest Asia and said he would rather that it not be six.
“But, if called today, I would be glad to go,” he said.