Enterprise welcomes principal home from Iraq

By Jennifer Buske
Sunday, June 13, 2010

Students at Enterprise Elementary School, wearing red, white and blue, welcomed their principal home Monday, following her year-long tour of duty in Iraq.

"We haven't seen her for so long, so it's good to have our old principal back," fourth-grader Emani Lesane said. "We want her to feel proud of what she did."

Lt. Col. Melanie McClure of the Army Reserve worked for two years at Enterprise before being deployed last year to Iraq. Overseas, she served as a logistics officer and also worked with Iraqi children as part of an educational literacy initiative.

"I had two jobs in Iraq, but the one that gave me great satisfaction was working with Iraqi children," McClure, 47, said. "They are bright-eyed . . . and ready to take on the world."

McClure said the education system in Iraq is not nearly as robust as the one in the United States. The Iraqi system operates on very little, she said, while in the United States, "we are incredibly fortunate with resources and talent. We have no excuse to leave any child behind."

Two former Prince William County principals led Enterprise students and staff members while McClure was away. McClure, however, kept in touch and sent letters and video messages.

Students in some Enterprise classrooms became pen pals with soldiers in McClure's unit.

"She would send videos form Iraq, and that was cool," fifth-grader Aidan Swift said. "She would tell us what she was doing and tell us to keep reading and learning."

During Monday's program for McClure, students performed a step dance routine, sang songs and read poems. Fourth-grader Allison Topps said it took her a week to write a special poem for her principal's return. The 9-year-old had written McClure a poem before she deployed and McClure said she kept it in her nightstand the entire time she was in Iraq.

"It makes me feel really proud she kept it," Allison said. "She is a great principal and very nice, so I wanted to write her another poem."

McClure, who has been in the Army for more than 20 years, had to return to Fort Dix, N.J., immediately after Monday's event. She will return to school July 1.

"I'm so thrilled to be back," McClure told students Monday. "I look forward to opening the doors [to the school] with you after Labor Day."

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