Happy Owl Publishing & Blue Angels Elementary Salutes ‘Little Heroes’

| Original Author: Thomas St. Myer, tstmyer@pnj.com

| Original Article Here: https://www.pnj.com

Neither Andrew nor Jennifer Rickmers attended the Little Hero’s Military Breakfast on Thursday morning at Blue Angels Elementary, but they still managed to be there for their 6-year-old son, Mark.

Both parents serve in the Air Force and are stationed in South Korea. Andrew is at Kunsan and Jennifer is a few hours away at the Osan Air Force Base. Andrew’s mother, Angela, took their place at the breakfast, and Mark used her iPhone to speak face-to-face with his parents on FaceTime. Mark enthusiastically told his parents about the breakfast. He wrapped up the conversation by saying, “Bye” and then playfully sticking his tongue up against the iPhone screen.

The Rickmers departed in January and left Mark and their 2-year-old sister, Adela, with his parents. Both Andrew and Jennifer said they miss their children, but they take comfort in where they left them.

“It’s good to be in a military town with the resources to help kids out,” said Andrew, a 2005 Pensacola High graduate.

Blue Angels Elementary Principal Karen Montgomery said about half of the 930 students come from military families. Those students and some of their parents filled the elementary cafeteria for the second annual breakfast.

Officers dressed in their Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy uniforms ate food with their children and then listened to author and illustrator Jill Hernandez read her book, “Home is Where the Navy Sends You: Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.”

Hernandez returned to her old stomping grounds after Escambia Superintendent Malcolm Thomas invited her to read the book at the ceremony. Her husband, a Marine Corps veteran, used to be stationed in Pensacola before relocating to Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Ga.

Students stared intently at illustrations from the book on the projection screen. Hernandez illustrated the Pensacola Beach water tower, Naval Air Station Museum and Fort Pickens among other iconic sites. Hernandez describes in the book why Pensacola is an ideal city to move to for a military child.

Thomas said a copy of the book will be available at each school library in the district.

“It was awesome,” Navy Petty Officer Joseph Seal said of the book. His daughter, Dawn, is a second grader at Blue Angels. She hugged her dad and shed tears as “God Bless America” played over the intercom.

Joseph Seal said his transfer to Naval Station Norfolk (Va.) is scheduled for the end of the month and that the family will be moving after three fulfilling years in Pensacola. He complimented Blue Angels Elementary for providing Dawn a nurturing environment.

“The school system’s been amazing,” he said.

Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph Avila and his wife, Angelyna, ate breakfast with their 6-year-old son, Joey. Joseph Avila said he appreciates how Pensacola embraces the military.

The Avilas moved to Pensacola about a year ago, so what Hernandez wrote in the book hit home. Joseph Avila previously served in Buford, S.C. and Okinawa, Japan, where he spent a year away from his family.

“You have to make sure the partner you choose is worthwhile,” Avila said. “The unsung heroes are really the spouses.”

Jill Hernandez, co-author of the Naval Air Station Pensacola book

The wonderful kids at Blue Angels Elementary

Jill Hernandez with Principal Karen Montgomery from the Blue Angels Elementary

Jill with one of the little heroes at Blue Angels Elementary

Jill with Superintendent Malcolm Thomas at Blue Angels Elementary

Jill with another little hero at Blue Angels Elementary