Since September, the students have been writing letters to Fuller and his fellow soldiers during their boot camp at Fort Knox, Ky.
Fuller’s brother, Caleb Pennington, is a student in Mrs. Colvin’s class.
Their mother, Sherry Messer, came up with the idea of the students writing to Fuller and the other soldiers, after Caleb had drawn a picture of a big guy and a little guy holding hands — “I want to be a soldier like my brother,” he had written.
Fuller is now stationed at Fort Gordon, Ga., and on Feb. 9 is headed to Fort Benning, Ga., to begin training in the airborne division.
“It’s an exciting day, and the kids, even though it's Christmas, they are excited about the activity,” Kristi Toppins, principal at the school, said. “They have never had an experience like this before, that they actually know a soldier. They have really just done an outstanding job to show him how much they appreciate him being in the service and honoring our country.”
As Fuller entered the cafeteria, the students stood in line, some carrying small U.S. flags. He sat down in a chair in front of them, and they began to march in place and chant a song, which Messer had written for the occasion.
They sang to Fuller that they had learned a lot about him through their letters, and ended with: “Readin’ your letters made us see, What the soldiers do for me, We’re glad to have you here today, We want a hug now if we may. Stand up, Private Fuller … We love you.”
As the song ended, Fuller stood up and the children flooded toward him with open arms.
“They might be second- and third-graders, but their pretty strong,” Fuller said with a laugh.
After presenting all the students with bags of candy with a card personally signed by him, Fuller presented the teachers with a gift of roses.
He said, “I’m glad the kids at a young age get to see what the military is about … I didn’t know anything about the military until I got in high school, and I’m glad the younger kids get to see a little bit of it.”
Fuller also said, “We live in a great country. The only way we can do it is to get support from home.”
Looking on with pride and fighting back tears, Messer said while home, Fuller will be working at the armory in Ashland, Ky.
“He may be on break, but he’s always on duty,” she said.
She also said it will be hard once again to see her son leave.
“It doesn’t get any easier, it gets harder,” she said.
DEBORAH DANIELS can be reached at (740) 353-31-1, ext. 234.