Saxe Gotha students video chat with teacher’s deployed husband, fellow airmen on Veterans Day

“Welcome to Afghanistan,” said the voice on the screen.

Fourth-graders sitting in the media center at Saxe Gotha Elementary School waved and cheered in response as Col. Rhude Cherry came into focus along with a half dozen other U.S. airmen in his unit. After a few minor technical difficulties, the school and Cherry were connected live Veterans Day morning.

Students say hello to Col. Rhude Cherry and fellow airmen deployed in Afghanistan. (photo by Rachel Ham)

Students say hello Tuesday morning to Col. Rhude Cherry and fellow airmen deployed in Afghanistan. (photo by Rachel Ham)

A 28-year veteran of the U.S. armed forces, Cherry has been deployed overseas since August and is the husband of fourth grade teacher Sandra Cherry. Students were able to get a peek into his life as an active duty veteran via FaceTime, an Apple video chat app.

“Not many boys and girls have this type of opportunity,” said Saxe Gotha Principal Beth Houck.

Sandra Cherry said she is especially thankful for the advances in technology that have made being a military spouse a little easier.

“I remember when we’d only hear from him once a month,” she said.

Cherry’s youngest daughter, Alice Grace is a freshman at USC and stopped by the school to see her dad.

“We can video chat but it’s hard with the time difference,” she said. “We text or write letters. The letters I get are usually a play by play of his day.”

Cherry's family joined the students for the Veterans Day video chat. (photo by Rachel Ham)

Cherry’s family joined the students for the Veterans Day video chat. (photo by Rachel Ham)

Cherry got a glimpse of his daughter during a test of FaceTime before the students arrived, but he did get a surprise later than morning when he saw his parents sitting in the media center, too. Rhude and Liv Cherry drove in Tuesday morning from Manning to see their son and were eagerly waving alongside the fourth graders.

Sandra Cherry thanked the students for dressing in red, white and blue to show their patriotism.

“This will make a difference for those people … fighting for our freedom,” she said.

The kids, however, had more than just hair ribbons with “USA” or American flag scarves. They sang two patriotic songs and came prepared with questions to ask Cherry and the other airmen, who are stationed all over the world from Japan to Virginia.

One student was curious about Cherry’s favorite style of plane to fly.

“I’m flying the MQ-9 now. It does good stuff for over here in Afghanistan,” he said.

Cherry also has spent more than 1,000 hours in the cockpit of an F-16.

Another student asked if his job as colonel was anything like a principal, and Cherry said he does share similarities with Houck.

“I have to deal with all kinds of people and find solutions to all kinds of problems. It’s challenging but rewarding,” he said.

After learning a little about each of the airmen, students pulled out small American flags they’d been hiding, waved them high and loudly sang “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

“We are going to tell everybody about this,” Cherry told the students.

Cherry is due back home this summer, and Houck already is planning to have him stop by Saxe Gotha in person.

“Maybe we can have him here for Veterans Day next year,” she said.