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Arlington school helps a student stay connected to his deployed mother

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Like most moms after a long day, Col. Julianne LeFevre likes to say goodnight to her son. But for several months, as she was heading off to sleep on a military base in northern Iraq, her son, Eli Kerr, was in the middle of his school day at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington.


Normally, Julianne works as a civilian in human resources for the Department of the Navy. But last year, the Army reservist deployed on Mother’s Day to Erbil Air Force Base in Iraq, where she worked to supply forces in Syria with food, water, fuel and ammunition as they fought the Islamic State group.


After she deployed, Eli, a seventh grader, was given permission to call his mom during the school day. His teacher Nancy Meehan came up with the idea to give the mother and son a little more privacy by asking the school nurse or counselor, whomever could leave their office for 10 minutes, to let Eli make the call there.


Julianne was busy and without access to her personal phone during the day, but each evening she was able to talk to Eli. “It was a great way to end my day,” said Julianne. “To hear his voice and do a daily check-in — how he’s doing in school, his feelings with me being gone, especially with COVID. He was going through so many transitions between when (the school) went online to spending 100 percent of his time with his dad — it was a lot.”


Eli also was grateful for the daily chat. “Something everyone told me was that I’m very lucky because people (years ago) wouldn’t be able to call their parents or talk to them, they could only do letters,” he said. “That kind of made me feel very lucky and happy that I was able to talk to my mom every day.”


To thank the school, Julianne sent them a challenge coin, a military token of appreciation, and a flag that had flown over the camp where she was stationed. The school plans to hang the flag in the hallway.


Many cathedral school families have connections to the military and in November, St. Thomas More was designated a Purple Star School by the Virginia Department of Education for its commitment to supporting military families.


“There’s quite a lot of military families, so I'm not the first one to deploy, but Eli and I certainly felt special,” said Julianne. “It made the deployment so much better because we just stayed connected.” 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021