A Special Visitor Comes to Countrywood and Maplewood

Air Force Sergeant Zach Taillie finally gets to meet his Maplewood pen pals.
Air Force Sergeant Zach Taillie finally gets to meet his Maplewood pen pals.
Maplewood 5th grader Domenick Pastore is in the spotlight with SSgt. Taillie. Domenick made a PowerPoint presentation to the audience about Navy SEALs and handled the media interviews like a pro.
Maplewood 5th grader Domenick Pastore is in the spotlight with SSgt. Taillie. Domenick made a PowerPoint presentation to the audience about Navy SEALs and handled the media interviews like a pro.
At Countrywood SSgt. Taillie greets his pen pals for the first time.
At Countrywood SSgt. Taillie greets his pen pals for the first time.
Ms. Gail Shapiro and her class at Countrywood pose with SSgt. Taillie showing off some of the art they created for him to share with his squadron.
Ms. Gail Shapiro and her class at Countrywood pose with SSgt. Taillie showing off some of the art they created for him to share with his squadron.

When 26-year old Air Force Sergeant Zach Taillie had an air force flight team fly an American flag on a B-1 Bomber in a combat mission over Iraq, he knew exactly what he was going to do with that flag.

Over the course of the past school year SSgt. Taillie, from Liverpool, NY, has been in communication with a group of students from Countrywood Primary Center and Maplewood Intermediate School. Both classes were participating in ‘real world projects’ as set up by South Huntington Special Education Teacher Ms. Gail Shapiro. “The pen-pal communications helped our students learn to compose and print letters,” said Ms. Shapiro.  “They learned how to create and send emails on their iPads, including inserting photos and saving and organizing their communications in folders.”

It was through sharing these letters that SSgt. Taillie developed a relationship with Maplewood 5th grader Domenick Pastore.  As it turns out young Domenick wants to become a Navy SEAL and the two became fast friends.  SSgt. Taillie just completed his second tour in the Middle East and one of his first stops since returning home was here in South Huntington to meet and thank his pen pals.  “Zach brought the letter writing campaign full-circle, helping our students understand that the time they took to write letters, draw pictures, and send care packages made a big difference to him and his entire squadron,” said Ms. Shapiro.

The students were not told about the surprise visit until the very last moment and their excitement was priceless. After his visit to Countrywood, Zach headed to Maplewood were a special room was decorated and cameras rolled with some of New York’s biggest news outlets capturing the moment when SSgt. Taillie presented the certified combat flag to 10-year old Dominick Pastore. “I think your dream of becoming a Navy SEAL is awesome,” said SSgt. Taillie. “It’s not easy to get in, but if you work really hard to get good grades you will be able to make it.”

Thank you Air Force Sergeant Zach Taillie and Gail Shapiro for giving our students such an enriching experience. Congratulations to all of our students who were involved in writing to SSgt. Taillie and especially to the Pastore family.

To view some of the media coverage of SSgt. Taillie’s visit please use the links provided below:

> http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/06/24/li-boy-meets-air-force-sergeant-pen-pal/

> http://7online.com/education/long-island-students-get-surprise-visit-from-their-air-force-pen-pal/803376/

> http://longisland.news12.com/news/military-pen-pal-visits-huntington-station-school-1.10577062#autoplay=true

> http://www.fios1news.com/longisland/huntington-station-students-military-penpal-visit#.VYtXHeuDdv0