At Crestview Elementary on Tuesday, students gathered in the gym -- flags in hand, patriotism in the air. "Mr. Smith, Mr. Smith," chanted the students. Third and fourth graders wailing proudly for their principal.
"I always tell them to be terrific," said Doug Smith. He's an elementary school principal, and a U.S. Marine. "The strength of our country comes from our people," he said.
Called out of the reserves for active duty, Tuesday the students said goodbye. "Goodbye Mr. Smith, we'll miss you," said one girl.
It was a day of both pride and confusion. Principal Smith transformed into Sgt. Smith. Teaching kids what it means to be an American. "On September 11th, there was one day of tragedy, and since then, what is best about our nation has come forward," he said.
A sentiment seen in the simple gesture of a homemade t-shirt. "Thank you Mr. Smith. Come home soon." A message scrawled on the back of a Hanes. "Oh, that is so cool," said Sgt. Smith.
It was also seen in the sincere concern of a neighbor wishing Sgt. Smith good luck. "I was in the Air Force for 21 years. I wish they'd take me back, and I'd go with you brother," said one man.
A sentiment personified in Sgt. Smith's mother. "I'm very proud but also concerned," she said.
A school, a community, united behind Sgt. Smith. "Man, this is taking a while," he chuckled as the line to hug him stretched for 20 yards.
A little piece of everyone going with him around the world.