Back From Iraq, Soldier Talks To First-Grade Class

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The 6-year-olds were excited that a soldier was coming to their class to speak. The soldier is Brian Rasmussen, a relative of their classmate, Austin Rice.

"I'm going to ask if he throws grenades," one boy said, as he settled down on the carpet square to listen.

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Just about every child in Mrs. Ormand's first-grade class at Frontier Elementary School raised their hand at one time or another to ask U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Rasmussen a question.

"I'm going to tell him thank you," a girl said, just as U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Rasmussen walked into the room.

The children quieted down the moment he began to speak.

He told them his rank, Sgt. First Class and that he had just returned to the U.S. after his second tour in Iraq.

"I've been over there to help out and try to get everything accomplished," Rasmussen said.

"Austin must be proud because he has you for an uncle," a girl said.

"Thank you, ma'am," he said.

Rasmussen treated the children to the courtesy of "ma'am" and "sir" throughout their questions and they seemed to respect his effort.

Rasmussen graduated Payson High School in 1994 and by February of the next year, the young man who enjoyed Scouting, hunting and the outdoors was in boot camp, where he spent "a lot of time running around and doing push-ups."

The students wanted to know about the medals on his uniform.

He earned combat action, expert rifle marksmanship and parachutist badges.

His answer spurred more small hands waving in the air with questions.

Rasmussen is a Cavalry Scout. He sometimes rides in a Humvee.

"I'm the guy who sneaks up in front of people and finds the bad guys first," he said.

He told the class that the bulletproof clothes he wears on patrol "weigh about as much as you do."

Do you shoot a lot?

"Only when I have to," Rasmussen said.

The questions "do you kill bad guys" and "do you put bad guys in jail," came almost simultaneously.

"I try not to," Rasmussen answered the first question.

To the second, he answered, "I have put them in jail. That's sometimes the best way."

Many of the students were wide-eyed as they imagined the sergeant jumping out of a plane with a parachute, even though the parachute has a strap hooked to the airplane to help it open.

Rasmussen admitted that jumping from a plane was scary to him, the first two times.

"When you jump out of an airplane, it is kind of fun. When you hit the ground, you have to fall a certain way, so you don't hurt yourself." he said.

"I have a toy that's a tank. What's it like in a tank?" a boy asked.

"It's smoky. It's cramped quarters in the turret," Rasmussen said.

The students learned Rasmussen was home from his second tour of Iraq, where it is hot during the summer and there are many sandstorms.

"They don't have tornados, they have dust devils," Rasmussen said.

He ate sea rations his first tour, but the second tour, the food was better, because the logistics were better.

"Did you ever get hurt?" a boy asked.

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U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Rasmussen

"No. I was lucky," he said.

"How long have you been in the Army?" a girl asked.

"Thirteen years."

"That's a long time," she said.

He received an Army commendation medal for his role in the Battle of Falluja and Bronze Stars for each of his tours in Iraq.

"What would they have to do if they wanted to be in the Army?" Karen Ormand asked.

Graduate high school and talk to a recruiter, Rasmussen said.

After his investigation of all the service branches, Rasmussen chose the Army, because they let him choose his military occupational specialty and the Montgomery G.I. Bill.

Now, the non-commissioned officer wants to teach ROTC, so he has "a chance to influence the next crop of officers."

It would also give him the chance to spend time with his wife, Cindy.

She teaches second grade at Fort Riley COB Speicher in Kansas, where he is stationed.

"We are just about to celebrate our second anniversary. It will be our first one together," Rasmussen said.

The Rasmussens have only lived together five months in the past two years.

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