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Soldier shares living history with his class

By Greg Gelpi

Not only will he be teaching history from books, but Paul Clark will be teaching from his own experiences.

Clark, an eighth grade teacher at Kendrick Middle School, returned from military service in Iraq recently and returned to the classroom Monday.

Cannon balls don't explode, but are designed to bounce on the ground, he said, explaining that his background enables him to teach facts and dispel the myths of Hollywood movies.

"With a military background you can always add a little more," Clark said.

Teaching his students about the American Revolution Tuesday, Clark spoke to his class about what led to America fighting for separation from the British.

His students, though, haven't asked about his efforts to bring freedom to the Iraqis. Instead, they have asked if he was shot at or had killed anyone, the Navy Reservist petty officer second class said.

When his history class discusses major conflicts, Clark will impart his own experiences with war and military conflict.

In Iraq, for instance, an improvised explosive device may go off, but an hour later civilians return to their regular business as if nothing happened.

"The security we take for granted is an everyday experience over there," Clark said.

Clark worked in classified intelligence and worked security during his six months in Iraq. His stint included security for inspectors searching the country for weapons of mass destruction.

His tour was his third military conflict, he said. He also served in Somalia and the first war in Iraq.

"I guess what's common about all of my military conflicts is the smell," Clark said, describing the "smell of neglect," the smell of human waste.

For the soldiers still serving in military conflicts, he said care packages with disposable cameras are a great way of demonstrating support for the troops.

"Just keep showing support," Clark said. "That's the best thing people can send is support."

The Clayton County school system has four certified and three classified employees on military leave, although the number fluctuates due to military call-ups and deployments, school spokesman Charles White said.

"Military leave rights are protected under the Uniform Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act," according to White. "An employee is guaranteed a comparable position for which they are certified, upon their return from military leave. While we do not hold a person's former position, sometimes, depending on the length of their ?call-up,' the employee can be returned to their old location if not their old position."