Naval Sailors Visit Gravely Elementary to Welcome Back Students

| August 30, 2018 | 0 Comments | Education

One of the officers talks in front of Dina Baird’s 2nd grade class.

Naval officers and sailors with the ship the USS Samuel L. Gravely came to Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. Elementary School in Prince William County, Monday, to greet students on their first day back to school.

The sailors made the three-hour trip from Norfolk to Haymarket to meet students at the school named for their ship’s name sake. Having the naval officers attend the first day of school has been a Gravely Elementary tradition since the school opened in 2011

They greeted students and parents at morning drop-off where they handed out stickers signifying which students would walk, take kiss-and-ride, or ride on a school bus that afternoon.

Parents thought it was a great start to the school year.

“They like to high-five them and get them excited,” said Gravely mom Allison Miller.

The school and the war ship were both named for Samuel Lee Gravely, Jr. (1922-2004) a Virginia man who made history. Born in Richmond, Gravely went on to become the first African America to serve in the U.S. Navy aboard a fighting ship as an officer, the first to command a navy ship, the first fleet commander and the first to become a flag officer. He retired a Vice Admiral.

After retiring from the navy, Gravely moved Haymarket, where his wife still lives to this day, and thus the school board thought it fitting to name the elementary school for him.

Principal Michael Kelchlin said everyone appreciates the sailors taking time to visit the students.

“The students are absolutely excited to have our sailors,” saying they gave the greatest gift, the gift of their time, and in doing so they said that education matters and the students matter.

Kelchlin also noted that Gravely students are taught to live by Vice Admiral Gravely’s model: “education, motivation and perserverance.”

Naval officers noted they are well-acquainted with the motto as well. “It is straight from his philosophy as a commander; he lived by this,” said Sr. Chief Jermaine Benton.

Sailors said it is always an honor, and an event they enjoy participating in.

“It’s really cool to be here to have our namesake, both the school and the ship, be represented. We can teach them to work to achieve what they want to,” said QM2 Benjamin Payseur.

He added that its always fun to answer students’ questions.

Students in Dina Baird’s 2nd grade class had various insightful questions. They wanted to know the year the ship was first launched, which was in 2009.

The officer took questions from the 2nd graders about life on the ship.

The sailors told the students they had been on the ship only a few years or a few months and most would move on to work on other naval ships throughout their career. They each had a different job on the ship. These jobs included navigation, engineering, logistics and kitchen work.

“I take care of all these sailors here,” said Commander Master Chief Larae Baker, explaining she is much like a vice principal of a school.

Knowing it was a “destroyer” ship, students asked about the guided missiles. The sailors said fortunately they have never had to use them.

After stopping in the 2nd grade, the sailors made their way to other classrooms.

Once the left Gravely Elementary, they went to visit Vice Admiral Gravely’s widow, Alma Gravely, before returning back to Norfolk.


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