School honored with flag

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

BUFORD -- Last Christmas, an American flag flew over Al Taqaddum Air Base in Iraq.

Now the flag rests in a display case in its new home: Buford Elementary School's media center.

The flag was given to the school by Johnny Herrera, a Buford graduate who returned home about a month ago after serving five years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Herrera said he gave the flag to the school to show his appreciation for the support he received while he was stationed in Iraq. The school sent him and others in his unit individual Christmas stockings stuffed with goodies.

"A lot of the guys that were out there with us really appreciated that," said Herrera, 23. "We got Christmas stockings with our names on them. ... We ate like little piggies that day."

Herrera's mother, Virginia Rodriguez, a paraprofessional at Buford Elementary, led the drive to collect items for her son's unit by setting out boxes at the school.

"This school is like a family," Rodriguez said. "Everyone shows their support."

Rodriguez said this will be the first Christmas Herrera, a lance corporal, has been home since he enlisted in the Marines five years ago. She said she plans to have a traditional family celebration at home with her five children.

Herrera said he served two tours in Iraq -- from February 2006 to March 2007 and from August 2008 to March.

Now that he's out of the Marines, Herrera said he plans to attend college.