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thedrifter
01-26-06, 06:50 PM
Students kept him in touch with home
By DANIELLE CAMILLI
Burlington County Times

SHAMONG — As U.S. Marine Cpl. Ralph Fleming ran past the yellow school buses here yesterday, students at the Indian Mills School gave him a hero's sendoff.

They cheered and clapped, yelling “thank you” and “good luck” as he ran past them onto Indian Mills Road.

The 26-year-old, dressed is his fatigues, carried a large American flag as he ran the seven miles from the school to his home in the Sherwood Forest section of Medford.

His journey, in the cold, whipping winds, was a thank you for their support to members of the Shamong school community, where his mother, Peggy Fleming, is a special education teacher.

The elementary school students sent letters of thanks and encouragement to Fleming during his two tours of duty overseas fighting the war on terrorism. Some families even sent care packages with snacks and games.

Fleming served seven months in Iraq in 2005, and seven months in Afghanistan in 2004.

During each of those tours, Fleming said yesterday, he knew he could count on the letters and care packages from home.

“It was really great to get the letters and packages. It would give me some happy moments while I was there,” he said. “It reminded me that home wasn't too far away. I wanted to come out here to say thank you.”

The young corporal, who joined the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks, was part of a Marine combat unit stationed in Ramadi, Iraq. The unit fought Iraqi insurgents and helped establish relations with the new Iraqi government, Fleming said.

“I always knew I wanted to be a Marine and after Sept. 11, I figured this was my time,” he said. “There was a lot going on in Iraq and it was difficult with the heat and the fear of enemy combat, but I felt confident in the work we were doing.”


Fleming returned to Camp Lejeune, N.C., in September and came home to Medford in December.

He is on leave until his military commitment ends in a few days. He has decided not to re-enlist. He has begun courses at Burlington County College and will transfer to Rutgers University. He plans a career in law enforcement with the New Jersey State Police or other government agency.

Before his patriotic run yesterday, he met students, shaking hands, getting his picture taken with some of them and answering their questions. As he ran past the buses of cheering students, his mother, dressed in red, white and blue, teared up.

“We're so happy to have him home,” she said. Family and friends cheered him along the route from the school and home.

He was greeted at his Medford home by family and friends and a large lawn sign welcoming him back and thanking him for his service.

Indian Mills third-grader Chris Durbin said it was “amazing” to send the letters to Iraq and meet a soldier. “We hoped our letters made him happy,” he said.

Classmate Faith Piotrowski said she felt safe knowing Fleming was “fighting for us.”

“We felt special that we could write to the Marines and tell them how we felt,” she said. “We just wanted to thank them.”

E-Mail: DANIELLE CAMILLI

January 26, 2006 8:21 AM

Ellie

jennifer
01-26-06, 07:19 PM
wow, That was really touching and made me think of my grunt friends and wha they do for us out there and it makes me mad when people dont appreciate them... theres more to say butim just gonna end up saying things i shouldnt, but good story...

rb1651
01-26-06, 08:17 PM
Semper Fi, Marine. Job well done. I wish Cpl. Fleming nothing but the best in his future endeavours. Thanks, Brother, for all that you have done, and will continue to due.