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Each week, Debbie Burdette’s first grade class at West Marion Elementary School get an up close view of what it’s like thousands of miles away in Kuwait.
But, more importantly, first-grader Daniel Turner gets an email from his dad.
Daniel’s dad, Carl R. Turner Jr., has been in Kuwait since June. He provides armed personal security for top U.S. military officials and U.S. diplomats traveling through the country. Recently, Carl began sending Daniel and his class emails each week with photos he takes of people, animals and places in Kuwait.
“Daniel keep up the good work in school buddy,” Carl wrote on March 19. “If Mrs. Burdette tells me you’re being good in school and paying attention we might just have a big surprise this summer when I’m home! I will talk to you soon buddy.
Love you, son.”
Emailing his son is just another way he can remind him that he loves him and is thinking about him, Carl said.
“With the help of people like Mrs. Burdette, it’s a lot easier to stay in touch and it’s that something extra,” he said, “that something special for my son.”
Carl has three children - Daniel, 8, Caylin, 4, and Ali Paige 2. He also has two step children with his wife Sarah - Blake, 6, and Landen Wathen, 4.
Originally, when Carl completed his work with the military he intended on coming home and staying. But during tough economic times his job in Kuwait has been providing a much-needed income for his family. Carl’s contract in Kuwait ends in June, and he’s considering signing up for another one.
“The hardest part has to be knowing that I can’t physically be there for them, which Daniel experienced while I was in the military serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom,” Carl said. “Whatever the reason... nightmare, sick, hard day at school... they have to settle for an email and periodic phone calls. We are working on establishing video chats on the phone, which will make all the difference.”
Burdette said Daniel was ecstatic when he received his first email from his dad. Since then, she has started a scrapbook, of sorts, with all of the emails from his dad and photos that he’s sent. Some of the photos Carl has sent include images of camels, scorpions, giant lizards, snakes, a mosque and the Kuwaiti people in traditional dress. Burdette shows the photos on the SMART board in her classroom and the students discuss them. It’s become a fun activity that the students look forward to each week, Burdette said.
“His classmates are always so excited for him and patting him on the back,” she said. “It’s really good for him. He just loves it when people are looking at his book.”
Daniel always writes his dad back, and sends him photos of himself with his classmates.
“I am sending you a picture of my class. Hope you like it,” Daniel wrote in an email to his dad. “I can ride my bike now without training wheels. Riding the bike was hard without training wheels. I did it by myself with a little help from my mom.”
Daniel also updates his dad on other important matters, like his new dog.
“General is my pet,” Daniel wrote to his dad recently. “He is dark brown. He is 7 feet tall. He is a big long dog. He sleeps in my room. He sleeps on the top bunk with me. He snores a lot.”
Burdette said the email communication between Daniel and his dad has been very good for him.
“As his teacher, it just makes me so happy to see him get so excited,” she said. “It’s a big deal to him.”