January 13, 2011 in Washington Voices

Central Valley orchestra teacher heads to Afghanistan

Students bid farewell during school assembly
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

Central Valley High School students line up to wish orchestra teacher Mason Flemmer good luck after an assembly in the school’s common area on Jan. 7. Flemmer will be deployed to Afghanistan.
(Full-size photo)

In between classes Friday morning at Central Valley High School, students gathered to say goodbye to one of their teachers.

The band played patriotic marches while the students gathered in the commons of the school and lined up around the balcony. Principal Mike Hittle asked the students to remove their hats while the choir sang the national anthem.

The short ceremony was to honor orchestra teacher Mason Flemmer who left Jan. 10 with the U.S. Army Reserves for six weeks of training at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin enroute to his deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the 326th Engineers.

“I didn’t expect the whole school to show up,” Flemmer, 32, said after the surprise ceremony. He’s been teaching at Central Valley for five years and also teaches strings at Greenacres Middle School.

Hittle presented 1st Lt. Flemmer with a poster of a bear signed by the staff. It said, “Keep your spirits up and your head down.”

“We wish you a speedy and more importantly a safe return,” Hittle said.

Flemmer expects to be deployed for 400 days.

“The hardest thing is to give up my job here,” Flemmer told the crowd. He added that he will be able to return once he’s back home.

At the end of the ceremony, Hittle asked the students to give Flemmer a formal send-off.

“Good luck and Godspeed,” they all said as one.

Then students and teachers offered hugs and handshakes to Flemmer wishing him a safe return.

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