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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Heartfelt moments: Students help deployed soldier's wife endure loneliness

Sunday, November 18, 2012

(Photo)
Kevin Culp, left, via Skype, talks to his wife Julie's class at Barnyard Kids on Veterans Day. At right is a photo of Kevin that Julie keeps in the classroom.
(T-G Photo by Jim Davis) [Order this photo]
Julie Culp may be down, but she's not out. She's got about 20 little rascals who keep her distracted each day during what many would consider a depressing time. In the middle of snacks, potty breaks and boo boos, these little rascals remind Julie of why life is good.

In return, Julie's giving the students in her class at Barnyard Kids pre-school a hands-on lesson that could only be taught by a soldier's wife.

Julie's husband, Kevin, is currently on a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan. The couple married last May and Kevin set off for his deployment the following month.

'I've got these kids'

Kevin is part of a maintenance group for engineers and his job is to recover vehicles that have broken down.

Back home, Julie has missed her new husband greatly over the last few months, but she credits the boys and girls in her class for helping her get by.

(Photo)
Julie Culp and her students at Barnyard Day Care with item they had collected.
(T-G Photo by Jim Davis)
"(The holidays) are going to be hard for sure but I have so much support,' said Julie as she paused, holding back tears. "I have my family, my friends ... and I have got these kids.

"They keep me sane everyday because I'm not missing Kevin when I'm with the kids. I'm never alone. I'm not missing him. In this job you don't sit around, so being here is huge."

Real-world lesson

While teaching her 3- and 4-year-olds recently, Julie decided to go above and beyond the call of duty, and put a face on the lesson she was teaching about computers.

"Our curriculum required us to set up a box and make it look like a computer," she said. "Then, they were supposed to pretend chat with each other. I decided instead of pretending we could do the real thing."

The kids got to use a real computer, using Skype to chat with a real-life person on the other side of the world -- Julie's husband.

Good(ie) feeling

When Dana Barnes, owner of the pre-school, found out about Julie's little project, she was thrilled and wanted to do something on an even bigger scale. The Barnyard family began collecting items for a goodie package that would be sent to Kevin and his unit.

On Veterans Day, Julie's class gathered to Skype once again with Kevin, revealing the news about the eight boxes of goodies that were about to be shipped his way.

The kids got as much out of the experience as Julie and Kevin.

Not desert-ed

"They definitely understood the fact that they were talking to a soldier," Julie said. "You know some of it all is hard for a pre-schooler to grasp, but the main points they got -- he's not here, he's a soldier, and he's in the desert. Some of them were asking if they could take a field trip to the desert."

The kids asked him about the weather in the desert and what he does as a soldier.

In all, the Veterans Day lesson was short, but definitely sweet. The Skype conversation concluded with the children saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

"We'd been practicing really, really hard to get that down pat, and he loved it," Julie said.

Boxes of love

The next day, Julie's Barnyard family filled up eight large boxes full of homemade baked items, beef jerky, peanut butter and other snacks and shipped the boxes overseas.

"We had a ton of stuff come in," she said. "It was absolutely amazing. We are going to send it all to Kevin's address and he'll share with his unit so this is all being split between about 20 guys.

"Dana's whole idea was for them to get the boxes around Thanksgiving," Julie said. "Her support, everyone's support, means everything to me."

Focused effort

Julie said Kevin, like everyone else over there, is ready to come home. But he's staying focused on the task at hand.

"He's doing just fine," said Julie. "He's really busy, and doesn't have time to whine and sit around and feel sorry for himself."

Sounds like someone else we know.

Kevin Culp, left, via Skype, talks to his wife Julie's class at Barnyard Kids on Veterans Day. At right is a photo of Kevin that Julie keeps in the classroom.

(Photo)
Julie, right, and her students at Barnyard Kids say the Pledge of Allegiance, staying seated so Julie's husband Kevin can see them all as he talks to the class from Afghanistan via Skype on the laptop at right.
(T-G Photo by Jim Davis) [Order this photo]
Julie Culp and her class at Barnyard Kids, a day care and pre-school in Shelbyville.



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