Fox Lane Graduate Brings Soldier Stories Back To Somers Intermediate School

Afghanistan Veteran gives kids a lesson in soldiering and patriotism
Fox Lane Graduate Brings Soldier Stories Back to Somers Intermediate School
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On Tuesday, September 23, Fox Lane High School graduate Jonathan Kelton spoke and presented a slide show before 150 5th graders at the Somers Intermediate School (where his mother Kathleen has taught for the last 19 years). A lieutenant in the special forces, his unit patrols the border of Pakistan, laying artillery fire to help suppress enemy insurgency into Afghanistan. Certainly technically literate in the military jargon of his mission, the 24 year old Ranger can sum up in plain language what the U.S. presence means to the locals.
"The Taliban comes across the border and threatens the people," he

said. So even though civilians are very receptive to the American presence and its efforts to rebuild, it's a constant struggle for him and his men.

Overall, they hope down the road that they can hand off their mission to the Afghan National Army but for now, he told the kids that every single day is like a battle. Nonetheless, to stay sane and sharp, he and his men try to keep a sense of humor about as many things as they can. Juxtaposing the challenges with laughter, their far away situation can't help but be a typical punch line, he said, "because in a place like Afghanistan everything seems funny."

Still, real laughter comes out of interaction with the Afghan children. Since a U.S. presence has been a constant from birth, they usually speak fluent English and are constantly engaged in playful bartering with the troops. Either way, he said, "We give them pretty much whatever they ask for."

Of course, it also helps that the 5th graders at the intermediate school have done their share to help shorten the distance between here and there. From one slide, some of the girls quickly recognized the cookies his men were devouring as they took a break from their duties. "Soldiers love girl scout cookies," he said in revealing how it only takes about 30 seconds for a few men to gobble down 10 boxes or


Far from home, they make sure to kid with each other too. One soldier in his command turned 18 just as they were embarking for Afghanistan last January so they made him get a permission slip from home before he left. "Yes, my son can go to Afghanistan," read the signed note from his mother, said Lt. Kelton.

Minus actually bringing their moms along, he likened the role of unit Sergeant to almost the same thing. Watching over them like a mother hen, discipline is kept and if the troops get out of line, he said, the Sergeant puts them right back where they belong.

As for his role leading 24 men into battle, The Virginia Military Institute International Studies major accepts the challenge of leadership with dedication and accountability. "If my platoon fails, it's my fault," he told the kids definitively.

After about 350 missions, he said in spite of the lighthearted presentation, "It's very real and very serious." Their base has been attacked and missions scare him most when intelligence cannot inform them on what they can expect to encounter next.

Regardless, when his tour ends in December, he intends to reenlist for another three years. After that, he predicts hardship may come only in the mundane kinds of things that the rest of us are challenged by. "I might go to law school or something boring like that," he said.

His mother would certainly welcome a bit more of that at times. "Whenever I hear of American fatalities," said Ms. Kelton, "I just gasp for air." Nonetheless, she concluded, he makes me proud to be an American.

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