DECATUR, Ill. — Dennis School fifth-grader Kayleigh Barrett, 10, loves pancakes, so when she was writing a letter to Navy Airman Apprentice Trevor Parks, it was important for her to know how he felt about the breakfast food.
“I asked him if he liked pancakes,” said Kayleigh, “and he said he liked them, too.”
Fifth-graders in Jennifer Parks’ class have been writing letters to Parks’ stepson, Trevor, and his fellow sailors since the end of August, and on Wednesday, the students were finally able to put a face to his name when he paid them a visit to express appreciation.
“Thank you for your letters,” said Parks, 20. “They really mean a lot. You don’t know just how much they mean to us, and we’ve really enjoyed reading them.”
Wearing his dress blue uniform, Parks fielded questions from the students, who were curious about what boot camp was like.
“In boot camp, we practiced things like marching, firefighting, gas chambers and marksmanship,” said Parks, adding that much of his future duty will likely involve working on aircraft aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
“Did you use actual guns in boot camp?” asked Alphonzo Lawson, 10.
“Yeah, we used real guns, but we had to use fake ones first,” Parks said.
He explained that his decision to enlist in the Navy was one of his proudest choices.
“I joined the Navy because I couldn’t see myself going to college,” he said. “My dad served nine years in the Navy, and it gave him so much, so I decided to enlist, and I think it’s the best decision I’ve made in my life so far.”
He noted that regardless of what the students decide to do in terms of college or a career, working hard in school is essential.
“School is very, very important,” he said. “You guys need to study hard for everything, whether you want to go to college or join the military like me.”
“I’m proud he is so successful in what he’s chosen to do,” Jennifer Parks said of her stepson, who graduated from boot camp in early October and did additional training in Pensacola, Fla. “I can tell it’s what he’s meant to do.”
As the students have been writing to Parks, he has replied.
“I’m glad you like pancakes,” Kayleigh said.
“So you’re the pancake girl,” said Parks, smiling. “Your letter really made me laugh.”
Jennifer Parks said the letter exchange has excited the students.
“I think it’s been good for them,” she said. “It’s their way to give back, and I think Trevor coming to thank them helps them know that what they’re doing is important.”
Parks, who will head to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state the day after Thanksgiving, said the letters have been beneficial for him, too.
“It’s been the biggest part of getting through boot camp,” he said. “The letters made me smile and helped me get through it.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services