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Iraq veteran visits school

April 17, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Master Sgt. Robbie Gossard had little contact with his family as he worked nearly around the clock in Qatar last year to fix and resupply C-130 planes being used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But one day, in November 2003, a box arrived unexpectedly at the Al Udied Air Force Base where he was stationed, and it made him feel a little closer to home.

Inside were letters from his daughter's kindergarten class at Clear Spring Elementary School.

The letters talked about what the children liked to do and what they like to read. Some also drew pictures and colored.

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The note from his daughter, Victoria, said, "I love you Daddy."

"I was so touched by that," Gossard, 39, said of the delivery.

As a way of saying thank you to the class, Gossard, who serves with the Air National Guard in Martinsburg, W.Va., presented a framed American flag to the school on Friday.

The flag had been carried in a C-130 over Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Africa, he said.

Gossard told the students that military personnel overseas were proud of them and said they were "tomorrow's leaders."

School principal Scott Woods said the flag will be displayed prominently in the school, even if it means moving things around to find a place for it.

"We will find a place in the school. That will not be a problem," Woods said.

Earlier in April, Gossard presented the school with a prayer rug he had picked up while deployed from April 18, 2003 to Dec. 7, 2003.

While in Qatar, Gossard worked as a maintenance operations controller, repairing C-130s which were used to haul blankets, ammunition, water and other supplies to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We were flying all kinds of resupply missions," he said.

The planes also were used to pick up soldiers injured or killed in the operations and then fly them to Germany or Turkey.

"The casualties weren't as bad as picking up bodies," Gossard said.

Gossard, who was born and raised in Hagerstown, was encouraged by his father, William, to join the Air National Guard.

He enlisted after high school and is in his 23rd year of service.

Gossard's father also had been in the Air National Guard.

He met his wife, Roberta, while serving, and she also is in the Air National Guard.

His brother, Michael, is in the Air National Guard and has 24 years of military service.

Gossard said he enjoys serving the country and supports the decision to go to war with Iraq, even if no weapons of mass destruction turn up.

The Bush administration claimed that Iraq had the weapons stockpiled, but none have yet been found.

"I do believe that what we're doing over there is an absolute must," Gossard said. "The majority of us feel just by going over and freeing the Iraqi people is enough of a reason to do what we've been doing."

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