Amy, Kaylee and Jace Tims with MPS principal Ahtalia Donaldson
Martin Primary School students had been told they’d be hosting three visitors for their Veterans Day program Friday morning, but their curiosity grew as only two chairs were filled at the front of the assembly room.
Children, teachers and staff members, patriotically decked out in red, white and blue attire, gathered in the school’s multi-purpose room Friday morning, much like several other schools around the county, in an effort to honor veterans who served the country in the past and who are serving it now.
Principal Athalia Donaldson introduced the first speaker, Fred Lehmkuhl, who most of the students know as a bus driver, and he gave a brief speech on the definition of a veteran. He also encouraged students to be confident enough to shake a veteran’s hand and thank them for their sacrifices.
The next speaker, Maj. Gen. Mike Maloan, reiterated Lehmkuhl’s remarks and stressed the job veterans do on a daily basis.
Then, it was time for the curiosity to peak as Donaldson admitted, “I told you there would be three guests today, but the third one had to go out of town.”
Donaldson spoke the truth. The guest did have to go out of town. However, with the flip of a switch and the power of a camera and a computer, a familiar face was suddenly projected onto a screen and, in the back of the room, the smiles on the faces of teacher Amy Tims and her children, Kaylee and Jace, grew as they recognized Spc. Robert Tims looking back at them.
Tims was deployed with the 913th Engineer Company in August and he spoke to the students and his family from 7,500 miles away in Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
As his wife and children placed themselves in front of the computer’s camera, several students lined up to ask Tims questions.
The inquisitive youngsters drilled Tims on everything from the weather (ranging from 70-100 degrees) to his job (a mechanic) to how he became a soldier.
One student asked if girls could be soldiers, too, and another wanted to know what soldiers did for fun.
Tims assured the students that soldiers made time for fun and enjoyed watching an occasional movie in a tent set up just for recreation and relaxation.
When asked whether or not he likes his job, Tims admitted the job has its ups and downs like any other job, but the sense of accomplishment is worth the effort.
As the questions continued, Tims shared how long he’d been deployed, how he got to Kuwait, what kind of food he ate, what time it was there (7:42 p.m. – nine hours ahead) and where he slept.
When asked to name his favorite football team, Tims replied, “the Vols,” to thundering cheers from the students.
Tims’ session drew to a close with his wife’s class singing him a special song and Maloan presenting a flag and commemorative coin to Tims’ wife and children.
“I had no idea about this,” his wife said. “This was a great surprise. Thank you all.”
“Thank you for thinking of us,” Tims said. “We won’t be gone too much longer. We’ll be home soon.”
As Tims signed off, students wished him well with waves and shouts of, “I love you.”