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Soldier surprises pint-sized pen pals

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By Bryan Marshall

Williamstown Elementary fifth graders had a special visitor in class Feb. 24 that brought smiles to their faces.

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As Cody Kinman, a military policeman with the Army, entered the room, the students stood and clapped for the 2009 Grant County High School graduate.
Kinman, a cousin of WES fifth grade teacher Deanna Wynn, recently returned from serving seven months in Afghanistan.

“We sent him letters and a care package full of food and movies that the students donated to send,” Wynn said. “We sent it and he received it right before Christmas.”
The students did not get a chance to write a second time because Kinman was able to return home earlier than expected.

“I didn’t tell the students that he was coming until 15 minutes before he arrived,” Wynn said. “I wanted to surprise them. They would ask me how he was doing off and on throughout the year but they didn’t know he was back. When I broke the news that Cody was coming in to see them, they were so excited and started cheering and clapping. They couldn’t wait to see him, along with his new family.”

Kinman visited the classroom with his wife, Katie, who he married before heading overseas in June 2013, and their 5-month-old son, also named Cody.
“I was going to wear my uniform and boots and stuff, but I didn’t put it in the washer,”

Kinman told the students. “I didn’t want to put you kids through that. It was nasty.”
The baby was all smiles in his camouflage outfit that matched his dad’s attire.
Kinman was in Afghanistan when his son was born Sept. 19, but he was able to come home a few days later to meet him.

Because of the time difference, baby Cody was actually born on Sept. 20 Afghanistan-time.
“I actually got to see my son born on Skype,” Kinman said.
Kinman gave students details about his time in Afghanistan, including the sandy weather, living in a tent and the temperatures hitting 130 degrees.

“Ninety-five degrees felt good,” he said. “But, when it’s cold over there, it’s freezing cold. It’s like 10 degrees for a high.”

It took Kinman about 18 hours by plane to get to his base in Afghanistan with stops in Turkey, Germany, Ireland and Kurdistan.

The students’ questions ranged from what Kinman did in his free time and if he ever rode a horse to what kind of weapon he used and what type of food he ate.
“You know how we eat beef and chicken? They would serve us lamb,” Kinman said as the students reacted in disgust. “I totally agree. After awhile, you don’t mind it because it’s really all you got.”

One student asked if camels really do spit.

“Yes,” Kinman said with a smile. “I tried not to get too close to them.”
For those young students interested in joining the military when they get older, Kinman gave them some advice.

“I would recommend if you want to join, something I didn’t do, was the ROTC and JROTC in high school,” he said. “You’ll go in with more rank and you’ll know a lot more. For me, I played basketball all through school and then jumped out into the Army. I didn’t know anything.”

Wynn said the experience the students had sending Kinman a care package also served as a teaching tool.
“We wanted the students to write letters to practice their pre-writing and writing skills that they have learned in class,” she said. “They were able to apply what they have learned all year. They were writing in details and correct grammar. When we gave them the option to write to him, we provided some of Cody’s interest and background information. They applied what they learned about him and would ask him questions and tell him stories that they thought would interest him.”

Kinman went through the entire Grant County school system, starting at Dry Ridge Elementary and Grant County Middle School before graduating from Grant County High School. His wife, Katie, attended elementary and middle school in Grant County before graduating from Cooper High School in 2009.  
One student asked Katie how she felt when her husband returned home in early February.
“I was very excited,” she said. “It was hard. It was overwhelming. But, there was a lot of people around like family.”
As he went to leave the classroom, Kinman thanked the students for all they did while he was gone.
“There are some soldiers over there that do not have much support,” he said. “I had a whole classroom of support. I want to give you guys a hand, too.”