By Jeff Gallatin
North Olmsted middle school teacher and Army Reserve member Christina Craigie is driving to a second tour of duty in the Mideast on a road paved with the well wishes of her students and fellow staff members.
A group of more than two hundred people poured into the North Olmsted Middle School gym March 20 to give a send off to Craigie, who will be serving in a transportation unit for a year in Afghanistan. A 13-year member of the Army reserve, Craigie previously served in the first gulf war as well in 1992. In addition to teaching social studies, Craigie coaches drama activities at the school.
“This is really great,” Craigie said. “It’s a great feeling to have something like this done for you.”
A variety of methods were used to show Craigie the depth of her support. Patriotic music was played, well-wishers read letters telling Craigie how much she means to all of them. She received the middle school social studies department equivalent of a ‘Flat Stanley’, when her fellow social studies teachers Debbie Holecko and Gina Caroscio gave her flat pictures of themselves to take with her, as well as showing one they made of her which they will keep with them.
“We’re really going to miss her,” Holecko said. “She’s always a lot of fun and the kids just adore her.”
After the formal part of the presentation, many members of the audience crowded around Craigie, hugging her and wishing her well. Many of the students and adults present shed a few tears during the activities.
“I have the best students around,” she said.
Her parents and other family members present said Craigie always gives her best, be it as a teacher, soldier or family member.
“She’s been through a lot in life,” Robert Craigie, her father said. “she’s always helping other people and doing what she can for them.”
Craigie, a sergeant, said her duties in the unit will vary.
“There’s going to be some supervising responsibilities, but there will be other times I’m driving or out there on the road with other people,” she said.
Keeping in touch with her students, fellow staff members plus family and friends will be a priority, Craigie indicated.
“I’ll be writing some letters and doing skype when I can,’ she said.
Craigie, who initially joined the Army reserve to help pay for college, said she’s proud of her fellow soldiers.
“We have a lot of good people who care about other people,” she said.
North Olmsted school board member John Lasko, who attended the ceremony, has a son, who is serving another tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Lasko said he appreciates the sacrifices made by members of the armed forces.
“We wish Miss Craigie and the members of her company success on their mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan,” he said. “Since Sept. 11, 2001, many graduates of North Olmsted High School have volunteered to serve their country in all branches of the military. Like Miss Craigie, many of them have served multiple deployments in combat zones around the world. We pray that all who currently are deployed will return home safely in mind, soul and body.
“In addition, we hope that the members of their families will have the strength to endure the physical and emotional stresses of the separation from their loved one until their soldier returns.”
Middle School Principal Thomas Dreiling summed it up for many of those present.
“We’re looking forward to having a ceremony in here when she gets back in a year,” he said.