South Georgia teacher welcomed home from Iraq - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia teacher welcomed home from Iraq

October 13, 2004

Albany - A Dougherty County school teacher is back with his students after serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Fifth grade teacher Kono Smith was sent to Iraq in March 2003 with the Army National Guard. He had just been named "Teacher of the Year" at Alice Coachman Elementary when he was deployed.

There were and tears, when Kono Smith said good-bye to his students at Alice Coachman Elementary and deployed to Iraq 19 months ago. Wednesday, students and teachers cheered as Smith came back to school.

"The students want to welcome you home in their own special way," said Principal Pat Victor during a ceremony at the school. Students gave Smith a hero's welcome with songs, signs and salutes.

"This is the warmest welcome anyone could receive," said Smith.

Smith served as an computer analyst with the Army National Guard in Iraq. "We helped to detect enemy fire, trying to pen point directions to help forward moving troops." After five months in Iraq, Smith was hospitalized with severe allergies which forced him to come back to the states. He finished his duty at Fort Stewart.

"The kids, when I said to them Mr. Smith is coming back, they just couldn't wait," said Victor. The school tied a yellow ribbon around a tree when Smith left - that ribbon was happily cut down during the ceremony.

"It's important for them to know that soldiers go off to fight for our country, and soldiers come home too," said Victor. A soldier home and a teacher back to work. "I've been abroad fighting the war on terror, and now I'm back to fight the war of illiteracy," said Smith. Now, teaching is Smith's only mission - one he'll start with a new class of fifth graders next week.

Kono Smith also served in Operation Desert Storm.

Posted at 5:17PM by kathryn.murchison@walb.com