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Class receives taste of a soldier's life

During the Persian Gulf War, Maj. Pam Potter had to scarf down her share of the Army's meals ready to eat," or MRE's, that were served up in brown plastic packets.

So much so that now she chooses to forgo the grub when it's offered during her Army Reserve training.

"I just can't eat that stuff any more. I had enough of it out in the desert," said Potter, who during the war was in charge of a retrograde mission, inventory and logistics for the tanks and army equipment headed back to the States.

Still, Potter figured the case full of meal packets that was given to her during her reserve training last summer could help bring a little taste of a soldier's life to the third-grade students she teaches at Cotee River Elementary School.

During a special Veterans Day lesson Thursday, Potter's young charges all had a chance to belly up to their desks and do a little taste testing. It's an annual event for Potter, who dressed in her fatigues for a day, also doled out camouflage headbands and smeared their faces with black, green and brown face paint.

The Veterans Day classroom celebration is educating in a festive kind of way, Potter said. "A little like Halloween with a patriotic theme."

After tasting a chicken ravioli concoction, 9-year-old Ashley Brown said she thought the military food was better than cafeteria fare. "Well, kind of."

That was until she got a taste of the Thai chicken and rice that turned out to be, well, "gross."

"Oh, I can't eat that _ it's nasty," said Ashley, squinting her eyes and sticking out her tongue.

Still, the pound cake was absolutely delicious.

"I could eat this forever," she said.

Eight-year-old Michael Zampella was a little more excited about the camouflage face paint than the food on his plate.

"I'm going to wear it all day," he said, with a grin, "until my mom makes me wash it off."

"Celebrating Veterans Day is especially important this year," said Potter, adding that an awareness of the country's armed forces might just help to allay the fears youngsters might be having these days.

"I think it's a security blanket for the kids," Potter said. "They know there are people out there that are going to protect them, protect our country, protect our rights."

Madison McAnn, wearing a size 7 army hat worn during the Korean War by her grandfather, Sgt. Robert McAnn, said she had been looking forward to the Veterans Day event. With her grandfather's blessing, Madison had brought his army uniform to school to share with her classmates.

"It's a lot of fun," said Madison, as the hat slipped down over one eye. "We learn about different people in the Army and stuff."

And after spending just a few months in Potter's classroom, Ashley Brown has made a big decision.

"I want to be in the military just like my teacher," she said.

Even after downing some of that nasty food?

"Uh huh," Ashley said. "They're (veterans) like heroes to other people. I think being a hero is good."