PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - A Marine corporal who recently returned home from serving in Iraq made a surprise visit to a class at Manatee Academy in Port St. Lucie Thursday.
Over the past year, Corporal Matthew Kruspe received letters and care packages from Brenda Pecora's 5th grade class, which includes his nephew Jonathan.
"Toothbrushes, soap, I think there were socks in there, candy, way, too much candy..." joked Cpl. Kruspe.
He told the students what the letters meant to him.
"To get a letter from you guys gives us a chance just for a couple minutes to get our mind away from what we were doing and where we were at..just to bring you back home for that little moment in time," he said.
He told them what it was like to live in the desert and patrol the country at night.
"Even though it’s the desert, it got freezing cold at night."
He talked about the weapons he used.
"At first I had a 50 caliber machine gun, which is probably about the size of this desk," he said pointing to the teacher's desk.
He spoke about the one time his unit came under attack.
"It made me nervous, it made me scared, I’m not going to lie," he said.
He described the Iraqi people.
"The culture is beautiful, the people are beautiful, not everybody hates us…there are a lot of people that love the fact that we are there."
The U.S. Marines have now pulled out of Iraq and Corporal Kruspe told the kids he was one of the last Marines in his unit to leave the country.
"It's an uplifting experience to go into it, and then get a chance to leave it," he said.
"I’m happy he came because it’s really important to me, because he fights for our country every day and I thank him for it," said Alanis Olmeta, a student in the class.
Corporal Kruspe is in the Marine Reserves, so he says he'll look for a civilian job now, but he'll have to be ready in case the military calls him back into service.
And if that happens, the kids at Manatee Academy say
they’ll be ready to write those letters all over again.
©2007 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.