WEST JORDAN — First Sgt. Bryan Smethurst made some pretty special friends via letters and Skype last August while he was serving a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan with the Utah Army National Guard.
Children in Marci Law's third-grade class at Jordan Hills Elementary decided they wanted to get to know Smethurst, because he is their teacher's brother. Smethurst planned a surprise visit to the class on Friday after returning home from his deployment.
"My sister is a wonderful teacher ," Smethurst said. "Anyway, she made the comment before I left that she would like to have her kids keep in touch with us. At first I didn't think anything of it, but as they started writing, it was really fun to get letters from home. It was a lot of fun."
Smethurst said that the letters meant a lot to him because he had two little grandkids that were around the same age as the kids writing him.
"They actually talk very grown up and they are very caring," he said. "They really cared about what was happening to us over there. So it really meant a lot that there were people this age that were caring and that their parents are talking to them about what is going on around the world."
Smethurst said that he read the letters at night when he didn't have any duties, and he responded to each of the kids that wrote to him. He said that he would try to encourage and teach the kids.
"They would tell me something that they wanted to do or be when they grow up, and I would try to give them a push in the direction that they need to go," he said. "I hope I had a good influence on them. I will always have a place in my heart for these kids."
Smethurst also presented the students with an American flag that was flown over his Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan as a token of his appreciation for their support.