October 10, 2007 Edition

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WR students greet
Clark with hero's welcome

Spc. Kenneth Clark (standing, from left), with his father Lloyd Clark and Linda Pierce, both social studies teachers, answers questions from Walnut Ridge students, Friday, when he visited the school. Clark has just returned from a year's deployment in Iraq.
John Bland

Spc. Kenneth Clark of Powhatan was a special guest at the Walnut Ridge Middle School on Friday, less than a week since his return from a year's deployment in Iraq with the National Guard's 875th Engineer Battalion out of Jonesboro. On hand for his visit were school administrators and media representatives, as well as students and teachers.

Clark came with gifts of appreciation for social studies teacher Linda Pierce and her Walnut Ridge students. He presented them with a U.S. flag that was flown over Al Faw Palace, one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces, near the airport in Baghdad.

Along with the flag, he gave them a photograph of the palace, imprinted with the words. "The flag of the United States of America presented to the Walnut Ridge School. Thank you for your support."

During the past year, under Pierce's direction, fifth and sixth grade students sent several care packages and correspondences to Clark, as well as to a few other soldiers for whom they could obtain addresses. Pierce said there were a few students with connections to other soldiers, and they tried to send letters and packages to them.

Pierce said she and the students wanted the military men and women to know that they were not forgotten and that people were still thinking about them. She said that with several years of war and multiple deployments, people tend to lose their enthusiasm for supporting the soldiers, so she felt that showing support to the soldiers was more important than ever.

Pierce said Clark's visit was also tied in with her students' recent observance of "Freedom Week."

Keeping up with Clark (and other soldiers) has also been a great way to get students interested in world affairs. "He's a hero to them," Pierce said.

During his visit to the school, he fielded many questions from the students. They asked about his uniform and badges, weapons, the food, what he did while in Iraq and if he got nervous or scared. Clark admitted that sometimes he was nervous or scared.

Yes, he said, he did get homesick, his answer to another question. "It gets pretty hot there, too," he said. He typically worked from noon to 9 at night. Some days the food was good and some days it was not.

Clark said he served as a support system specialist and worked with radios and computers to monitor activity in the field. During their deployment, his battalion found over 1,000 explosive devices and disarmed the majority of them.

He is the 25-year-old son of Barbara and Lloyd Clark, who teaches seventh and eighth grade social studies and history at the school. The elder Clark is also retired from a military career, in which he obtained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.

Kenneth Clark attended school in Black Rock before attending the Arkansas High School for Math, Science and Art in Hot Springs, from which he graduated. He attended college for a year at Arkansas State University and has since attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The recent deployment was Clark's second in Iraq.

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