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When war comes "This Close..."

MARINE VETERAN Jonathan Pablik, new to The Dalles, shows fourth graders at Chenowith Elementary School the bullet hole that went through the back of his boot and came “this close” to hitting his Achilles tendon during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan as part of Operation Moshtarak.  He was 17 when he shipped out for a first tour of duty as part of a combat assault force in Iraq and was supported through both deployments by the Gorge Heroes Club.

MARINE VETERAN Jonathan Pablik, new to The Dalles, shows fourth graders at Chenowith Elementary School the bullet hole that went through the back of his boot and came “this close” to hitting his Achilles tendon during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan as part of Operation Moshtarak. He was 17 when he shipped out for a first tour of duty as part of a combat assault force in Iraq and was supported through both deployments by the Gorge Heroes Club. Photo by RaeLynn Ricarte.

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STUDENTS in Larry Sprouse’s class at Chenowith eagerly raise their hands when asked by Jonathan Pablik, a Marine veteran, whether they wanted to be in charge of gear, such as a radio headset, that he had brought for Thursday’s presentation.

Jonathan Pablik, 23, a Marine veteran, captivated fourth graders at Chenowith Elementary School, using his military training Thursday to hold their attention.

He began his presentation in the class of Larry Sprouse with a round of push-ups and then directed students to growl a reply to the question, “Good to go?” to show they were tracking the conversation. When he used the word “Eyeball” they were to say “Click” and then shut their eyes briefly to clear their heads and regain focus.

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” said Pablik as students carried desks out of the way so they could sit in a tighter formation for his lesson.

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MARINE VETERAN Jonathan Pablik, new to The Dalles, shows fourth graders at Chenowith Elementary School the bullet hole that went through the back of his boot and came “this close” to hitting his Achilles tendon during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan as part of Operation Moshtarak. He was 17 when he shipped out for a first tour of duty as part of a combat assault force in Iraq and was supported through both deployments by the Gorge Heroes Club.

Each of the 22 students were given a “call sign” that was based on his or her name to demonstrate how communication occurred out in the field.

“If your last name is P, like mine, then you are ‘Papa,’” he said, which earned giggles from the students.

Pablik’s instructions were mixed with levity but also held messages of empowerment that he had learned after heading off to war in 2008 at the age of 17.

Telling the class that it was important to empower themselves to prevail fear, he shared his methodology to overcome being afraid while engaged in a 36-hour firefight with Taliban militants during Operation Moshtarak in Afghanistan during 2010.

“When you feel afraid you have to find something opposite to think about; anything that makes you smile – that’s it!” he said. “There is a way to overcome fear; it’s a choice.”

He also told the students to be appreciative of living in the U.S. where they do not have to fear stepping on a roadside bomb as the children did in Afghanistan and other war zones.

“They are scared every day they might die when they do to school, so be grateful you live in a country like this,” said Pablik.

Also visiting the class of Larry Sprouse in the afternoon of April 4 was Daryn Fogle, father of Hospital Corpsman Third Class Jeremy Fogle, 25, who is currently on his second deployment to Afghanistan.

“I would be the first to say that wars are mean,” he said. “But wars and battles do take place and, when they do, people get hurt. When that happens, Corpsmen like my son take care of the ones who are wounded.”

Jeremy is a 2005 graduate of Hood River Valley High School and enlisted in the Navy five years ago; first working in Italy and then taking on the role of “Doc” for Marines in a combat assault battalion from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Sprouse contacted the Gorge Heroes Club several months ago about adopting someone who was at war and was given Fogle’s name. His students began exchanging messages through Facebook and were provided with an overview of living conditions in Helmand Province, where the Marines are tasked with stopping drug trafficking activities that fund Taliban militants.

“I’ve really been trying to teach them about honor and respect and what service means,” said Sprouse, who has been an educator for 30 years and a resident of The Dalles since 1982.

Next week, his class plans to ship a box off to Fogle that contains well wishes and some snacks for him to enjoy on patrols and share with “his” Marines. Daryn told the students his son was protective of the 150 men and women he was charged with providing medical care for and that Marines, whether they wanted to admit it or not due to service rivalry, were also assigned to the Department of the Navy.

“When I heard that they were supporting Jeremy like this I just thought, ‘Wow!’ I was speechless,” said Fogle. “Honestly, I’m kind of speechless about it. It’s nice, it’s honorable and, as a parent, I’m proud of my son and now more than ever because he’s also a role model for these kids.”

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