Soldier returns to Craig classroom

It wasn't physical education class, but students at East Elementary School got a workout anyway doing the "call-on-me" dance during an assembly Friday.

The entire student body gathered to meet U.S. Army Spc. Greg Calim, who is in Craig on leave after serving in Iraq for four months.

Calim planned to visit his old stomping grounds after a second-grade class sent him a batch of letters in November.

"They are so excited," teacher Michelle Georgiou said. "They can't believe 'that guy' is actually here."

Calim, 21, attended elementary school at East 12 years ago, and on Friday, he had the chance to talk to several teachers who remember him.

But it was students who were the most fascinated. Hands shot into the air when Calim opened the floor to questions.

"Why do they have an Army?" was the first question asked.

"To help protect us from anyone who wants to hurt us," Calim said.

Calim showed students the proper way to salute and told them about hot desert days when temperatures reached 130 degrees.

Students' letters reached him before Christmas, Calim said, and were a good distraction from the boredom that sharing one television brings.

"Sometimes, we get bored, and we herd the donkeys with our Humvees," he told students. "Your letters made us -- all the guys -- feel so much better."

Calim enlisted in the Army nearly two years ago as the confrontation with Iraq was heating up. He was trained in Fort Knox, Ky., and immediately was shipped out to Korea, where he spent a year. He went directly to Iraq from Korea and isn't expected home until August or September.

He told students the trip to Iraq from Korea entailed a 20-hour plane trip and a three-day ride to get to his base 15 miles from Baghdad -- and really nowhere near an ocean.

"There's really nothing around us at all," he said in response to a student's question. "It's all just flat sand."

Calim's in town until Jan. 16, then he'll return to Iraq for another eight months.

Some students will use the experience of meeting Calim in the classroom. Now that they've seen him in person, several expressed interest in writing him, and some teachers said they would do exercises in letter writing.

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