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Eliah Anderson points to the naval base in Japan, where he will be working in "tech control" starting on March 10. The 2012 Wadena-Deer Creek graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy. He surprised Junelle Jackson's second-grade students on Wednesday by being their special guest reader.

WDC second-graders surprised by special guest Wednesday

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Dana Pavek, WDC Schools

At the beginning of the school year, Wadena-Deer Creek second-graders in Junelle Jackson's class made Eliah Anderson their 'adopted soldier.'

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A 2012 graduate of Wadena-Deer Creek High School, Anderson had enlisted in the U.S. Navy in June 2013. Mrs. Jackson's class has been writing and sending special care packages to Anderson during the school year.

As a surprise orchestrated by Mrs. Jackson, Anderson arrived at the classroom today, much to the astonishment and delight of the students. "It's Eliah! .... It's our solider! .... He's here!" was the elated responses from students. They couldn't believe their adopted soldier was standing in his "dress blues" in front of the class — and they were all smiles from ear to ear!

As part of Anderson's surprise visit, Mrs. Jackson asked Anderson to pick out a book and read it to her students in honor of "I Love to Read Month." Throughout the month of February, WDC teachers invite special people into classrooms to read to students.

"There is no one more special to us than Eliah," said Mrs. Jackson. "His mother, Loni, let me know that he was coming home before he is being deployed to Japan. We arranged his visit as a surprise for my class."

Anderson chose to read to the attentive second-graders, "The Boy Who Could Find Anything" by Joan Lowery Nixon. During his visit, Anderson also answered a variety of questions about his experiences in the U.S. Navy. What the students enjoyed most was how Anderson shared some of the terminology used in the Navy, such as a "cover" is a hat, a "galley" is where they eat, the "rack" is where they sleep, and a water fountain is a "scuttlebutt."

He also shared with students how strict boot camp was and how on a couple of occasions, his bed wasn't made correctly. "Because my bed wasn't made just right, I had to do push-ups — a lot of them!"

Anderson told students how he had to "read and read and read" when he was attending his Information Technology training in Florida. "It's important to read all the time," Anderson told the students.

Mrs. Jackson, who has been "adopting soldiers" as part of a class activity for several years now, believes the activity helps not only raise awareness and respect toward soldiers who serve our country, but students get to experience military life through the eyes of a real soldier.

When Anderson is deployed to Japan, Mrs. Jackson asked that he send photos to the class. He said he would enjoy sharing photos and promises to email several photos on life at the Japanese naval base.

Anderson's response was immediately met by more cheers and smiles from the students.

Eliah is the son of Loni Niles, who is the media specialist at Wadena-Deer Creek Schools.

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