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A hero's welcome

Chehalem students meet Ben Kramer and thank him for his service with Marines

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Veteran Ben Kramer surrounds himself with students in Kristen Green's second-grade classroom at Chehalem Elementary School.Armed with a poster honoring Sgt. Ben Kramer, students in Kristen Green’s second-grade class at Chehalem Elementary braved a downpour Thursday as they traipsed over to Murray Boulevard.

Their goal was to unfurl their homemade poster underneath the banner honoring Kramer and other military veterans as part of Beaverton’s Armed Forces Banner Program, which began last year.

“They created a ‘thank-you-for-saving-our-country’ poster,” said Green. The students have been learning in class not only about past veterans of wars but about present-day heroes as well, she said.

Their goal last week was to make Kramer, a Marine and Beaverton High School graduate, feel appreciated.

For Green, honoring someone from the military was personal. She knew Kramer growing up.

“His sister and I went to the same college,” said Green. “Ben and I are the same age.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: RAY PITZ - Students in Kristen Green's second-grade classroom display a poster thanking Ben Kramer for his service underneath a banner honoring veterans along Murray Boulevard.

What the students also did was write letters to Kramer, including them in a bound book. The final piece of the project was having all 24 second-graders photographed with the soldier’s banner, holding their poster.

As they marched, each of the students held tiny flags donated by parent volunteer Chris Edwards. A larger flag was donated to Green’s classroom by Marv Doty, post commander of the American Legion of Beaverton.

Green would later say that in a world that often focuses on one’s self, her students were reaching out to someone else, something she finds encouraging.

Once at the banner, the students posed for their photo as a steady, blowing rain continued. They returned to school with the thought in their minds that they would meet their hero the next day.

When the students finally met Kramer on Friday, it proved monumental for everyone.

“It was incredible,” Green said about Kramer meeting her students. “Words can’t really describe it.”

Green said four students — Khushi Kalia, Mason Boehm Wood, Ramona Dolson and Elle Seby — all read letters thanking Kramer for his service in multiple deployments over five years, including in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.

In the end, the students sang four songs in his honor, including “America.”

“We were all fighting back the tears,” said Green.

In addition, the second-graders got a chance to ask a few questions of the Marine, including queries about his favorite sport and favorite food as well as what was the first thing he did when he returned from his tours of duty.

“Both times when I came back, I went straight to Chipotle,” Kramer told his young audience.

Green said Kramer, who spent two years studying at the University of Oregon, was beaming as he talked with her students.

Kramer was joined by both his sister, Lauren, and his mother, Mary Kramer, a teacher at Sexton Mountain Elementary School.

Finally meeting Kramer meant a lot to the students.

“I was so excited to meet Ben!” said second-grader Evangelee Maderos. “We had such a fun time telling him what we have learned about Veterans Day and getting to say thank you! He is my hero.”

Her fellow classmate, Lucas Satterlee, agreed.

“We had so much fun meeting Ben today and singing to him was my favorite part,” Satterlee said. “It was special to give him a gift of letters and a picture. I hope we see him again soon.”

Kramer was appreciative as well, saying through an email that he had “so much fun” meeting the second-graders and reading their letters and looking at the photo they took.

“It really did mean a lot to me,” he wrote. “I wish everyone that came back could have an experience like that. The more I think about it, the more significant it is. I can’t express it as much as I would like. In short, it (fully) personified the reason we fight.”

Kramer is currently training to become a firefighter.

Green was pleased with the entire experience.

“It was really wonderful, more than I imagined it would be,” said Green. “(The students) were really ready for it.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Evangelee Maderos, 7, high-fives Ben Kramer after welcoming the U.S. Marine to Kristen Green's second-grade classroom at Chehalem Elementary School.Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Students in Kristen Green's second-grade classroom at Chehalem Elementary, show their patriotism by waving American flags during veteran Ben Kramer's visit on Friday.

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