Soldier visits children at
his former school
Army Staff Sgt. Troy Johnston talks
with Morningside students
LORI CAIN | STATESMAN
Students at Morningside
Elementary School ask U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Troy
Johnston questions after he spoke about some of
his experiences in Iraq.
December 11, 2004
Morningside Elementary School students
didn't meet just any soldier on Friday, they welcomed
one of their own.
"What was your favorite thing when you
were little about being at Morningside?" one girl asked
Army Staff Sgt. Troy Johnston during his visit to the
south Salem school he attended as a child.
"Recess," he answered.
The children laughed. Another child
raised his hand.
"What was your second favorite thing
when you were a kid here?"
Johnston, 31, returned to the United
States on Nov. 1 after serving a year in Mosul, Iraq. He
is a member of the Stryker Brigade, based in Fort Lewis,
Wash. Johnston's mother, Jane Nelson, is a kindergarten
instructional assistant at Morningside.
"We thought it would be good for the
kids to actually see a soldier instead of just seeing a
picture in the newspaper," Nelson said.
The school welcomed Johnston with yellow
balloons near the front entrance, and a message with his
name on an outdoor sign.
Johnston grew up in Salem and has been
in the Army for about 10 years. He spent about 45
minutes Friday afternoon speaking to several classes at
his former school, showing them pictures he took in Iraq
and letting them handle Iraqi money and MREs -- meals
ready to eat.
Many of the younger students wanted to
know if Johnston had met their friends or relatives who
also served in Iraq.
"The Army's pretty big," was his usual
Some of the boys asked about the weapons
he carried. The biggest weapon he used was a 155 mm
Howitzer, and the most weapons he could carry at once
was two: a rifle and a pistol.
Johnston described the Strykers in which
he rode, which are large armored combat vehicles.
"Think about nine full-grown men fitting
in the back of one of them," he told the students. "It
One student asked him about camel
spiders, which led to a long discussion -- and multiple
follow-up questions -- about the 6-inch-wide carnivorous
spiders that sometimes chased the soldiers in the
Another fact that surprised the students
was the temperature in the desert, which reached 130
degrees where Johnston was staying.
Fourth-grader Ashley Reul said she was
most impressed with the food the soldiers eat. Timothy
Hartley, another fourth-grader, couldn't stop thinking
about the camel spiders.
"The camel spiders were new to me," he
said. "I hadn't heard about them."
Sean Warnock, a second-grader, said he
didn't know the soldiers had to go through so much
"They have to work very hard so they
don't get shot," he said.
His classmate, Shihonna Vigil, didn't
realize Iraq could be so dangerous.
"He was awesome," she said of Johnston.
"I've never seen an Army person in real life."
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