DANVILLE — “Letters and packages from you were a very important part of my life overseas,” said Air Force veteran and Danville native Jimmy Epley told Wendy Colopy’s fifth-grade class at Danville Elementary school. Epley visited the class Friday afternoon to share his experiences and answer questions from the 19 elementary students.
Epley was adopted by the class last fall, soon after he arrived overseas in Afghanistan. He was in a construction unit working as a heavy equipment operator on dozers and backhoes, and also helped with building.
“We poured a lot of cement,” he told the students.
He served two tours, the first time for five months in Iraq, then six months in Afghanistan. Serving in a reserve unit, he attended The Ohio State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management.
“I thought it was really fun,” is how student Kyle Lauderbaugh summed up the afternoon with Epley. Kyle said he wrote three letters during the year.
Kevin Wears thought the experience in talking with a veteran was “Pretty exciting to see a soldier who explained how hard it is working overseas.”
Epley showed pictures of the places he worked, then presented the students with a large plaque that included a flag flown by an Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter plane on a combat mission over Afghanistan. Then he presented each student with a coin replica of one he received for meritorious service in the combat theater.
Colopy said the students sent letters mostly by e-mail. During the year, they sent several packages of personal items, which added up to 80 pounds in weight.
Epley is not yet out of the service; his degree has garnered him a job with a construction company. He is the son of James and Tracie Epley of Danville.
This is not the first soldier the fifth-grade class has adopted. A Marine and an Army veteran were adopted the previous two years, and the class has adopted a fourth, an Army soldier from Danville, Kristie Byers, now a cook in Afghanistan. Her parents are Kathy and Kevin Byers. Kevin Byers is a janitor in the Danville Schools.