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Sgt. Felix Martinez poses Friday with fourth-graders from Kaiserslautern Elementary School at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
Sgt. Felix Martinez poses Friday with fourth-graders from Kaiserslautern Elementary School at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

People eating lunch Friday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center watched as little kids began to assemble in a corner of the cafeteria.

Little did they know that “Heroes of the Battle,” by Mrs. Kriner’s fourth-grade class, was about to debut — as soon as Kriner could round up all the little buggers.

Two months ago, the 9- and 10-year-olds from Kaiserslautern Elementary School wrote a song for those wounded and injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now the moment of truth had arrived.

Parents crowded in to take pictures. Most of the others kept on eating. John Keating started to strum his guitar. Kriner held up her hands like an orchestra conductor, then signaled the kids to sing.

“You were fighting in another land …”

The lunchgoers — nurses, doctors and other medical personnel — stopped eating and started listening.

“So far from home,

“You were all alone.”

Pfc. Joshua Hagler, a medic with the 94th General Hospital, called it “humbling.”

“It’s pretty impressive,” Hagler said, “for young people like that to write a song with that much meaning in it.”

So did they hit it?

“Dead center,” Hagler said.

“I was afraid I was going to start bawling,” said Kathleen Ball, a reservist nurse.

Truth be told, the kids had a little help. Back in March, a visiting songwriter named Katherine Dines did a workshop with Kriner’s class.

The goal was to compose a song; the topic was a natural.

“The day before we had made sympathy cards for wounded Marines,” Kriner said. “So it was fresh on their minds.”

As the kids chirped out ideas for lyrics, she wrote them down on chart paper. Dines, the songwriter, helped hone some of the rhymes.

“We made some adjustments and, ‘Boom,’ it was done,” Kriner said. “It took maybe an hour, hour and 15 minutes.”

The students’ proficiency did not surprise their teacher. Kriner said the boys and girls had for months been discussing the war and what it meant.

“It’s amazing when kids are given a forum how insightful they are,” she said.

After a 40-minute playground break, the youngsters marched back into the Landstuhl cafeteria for another performance.

The plan had been to bring some wounded into the hospital’s auditorium and sing to them there, Kriner said, but that plan fell through. As the kids sang for the cafeteria crowd for a second time, a big guy near the front wiped away some tears.

“I started having my lunch, and when they started singing that song, I couldn’t take my ears off it,” said Pfc. Felix Martinez of Salinas, Puerto Rico, who’d been injured in a Humvee crash outside Baghdad.

“The way people are projecting their support — like the homemade postcards we received over there,” Martinez said. “Many times, I saw soldiers with tears in their eyes as they were reading them.

“It’s important for [the kids] to know they didn’t write them in vain.”

Or the song.

Heroes of the Battle

You were fighting in another landNo trees, no grass there, only desert landSo far from homeYou were all aloneWishing you could hold a loved one’s hand

Heroes of the battle, fight an ugly warWhile we wait and wonder when you’ll come through the doorHeroes of the battle, always bold and braveOur heroes of the battle will never go away

You were missing family and friendsBut had Iraqi freedom to defendAnd after an attack,We had to bring you backBut still you would have fought to the end

Heroes of the battle, fight an ugly warWhile we wait and wonder when you’ll come through the doorHeroes of the battle, always bold and braveOur heroes of the battle will never go away

— By Mrs. Kriner’s fourth-grade class

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