Army Major Jeremy
Mexico Middle School
by Kelly M. Freihofer
This past winter all of the sixth-grade students, all 175 of them, paired up to make a total of 82 pillows under the direction of middle school career and living teacher Susan Soscia. Soscia has a special connection with Larchick, as he is her nephew, and he acted as the liaison between the school and the children in Afghanistan to whom he distributed the pillows to when they were sent in February 2012.
Larchick, whose official title is Major Jeremy Larchick, JAG Corps, legal advisor for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Drum, was in Afghanistan from March of 2011 to March of 2012. At the middle school he shared his experiences through voice and power point.
“Our mission,” Larchick noted, “was to protect the people who lived in our districts and defeat the people fighting the government of Afghanistan.”
He discussed the Afghanistan police, the military, and the dress. With his power point Larchick answered the question,
“What was Afghanistan like?”
“Houses made of mud; dry and hot in the summer and cold in the winter; very poor country; most people cannot read; most people farm.”
Mexico school district superintendent Robert Pritchard attended the middle school event and at timely intervals he added to Larchick’s presentation. Pritchard recalled his days of service as a lieutenant colonel attached to the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan from September 2002 to August 2003, and he shared many of his memories with the sixth-grade students. Speaking specifically about the Afghanistan countryside, Pritchard used the word inhospitable.
Larchick also told about the day of an Afghanistan child. They wake up and pray (Muslims pray five times a day), and they do chores on the farm. Their school day, if they are lucky enough to go, is from 8 a.m. until noon and they work at home after school.
Did the children ride buses to school?
No, not where Larchick was stationed; they walked or some of them rode bicycles.
When Larchick arrived in Afghanistan there were two schools in his area – an area with only one paved road. While he was there they helped the Afghans build 16 more schools and this project was referred to Operation Education. The American soldiers required, upon building the schools that girls be allowed to go. All ages of students went together to school and learned together. Most of the schools had one teacher, a well and an outhouse. “We handed out a ton of school supplies,” recalls Larchick. They also built a police station there.
Statistically out of 100 people only 15 percent are able to read and write at a third-grade level.
“We really worked on improving the literacy rate there,” says Larchick.
What was a typical day like for the soldiers in Larchick’s unit?
They woke up early and ate a good breakfast and prepared for the day. Preparing for the day meant putting on a helmet, bullet proof eye protection, fire proof gloves, a bullet proof vest, a weapon and bullets, and elbow and knee pads. Then the soldiers went on patrol and talked to the local Afghans through translators for four to five hours. Returning to the base they cleaned their gear and discussed wheat they had learned that day. Then they got their mission for the next day. After dinner (they ate a lot of goat meat, rice and bread), Larchick went to bed – on a twin-size cot in a tent with 11 other soldiers.
Despite the challenges and difficulties that Larchick experienced in Afghanistan, he made note of the fact that he had friends while there.
“I did make a lot of friends and I was almost sad to go. I’ll be honest with you.”
On the other hand, Larchick shared that the worst part of being on this mission to Afghanistan was missing his wife and three children. The best part of his day was getting mail, and “Talking to my family on the telephone or over the computer.”
He also mentioned eating as a favorite as a best part of the day.