WKU honors ‘adopted’ soldier Brownell at luncheon

Letters from area children to Command Sgt. Maj. John Brownell and his squadron lay on a table Tuesday at the Knicely Conference Center. WKU has also collected care packages to send to the soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

Tessa Duvall

Next Monday, he deploys back to Afghanistan to finish a year-long tour of duty.

But today, he was honored by the WKU community.

Command Sgt. Maj. John Brownell, a 2010 WKU graduate and active duty soldier from Fort Knox, was recognized Tuesday at a luncheon at the Knicely Conference Center.

Brownell and his cavalry squadron were adopted by the WKU Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport for their current 12-month deployment to Afghanistan, which began in December. The KRS department, Extended Learning and Outreach, the ALIVE Center and other WKU community members have collected items to send to Brownell and the more than 450 soldiers in his squadron. Items collected include socks, toothbrushes, deodorant and beef jerky.

Brownell, who is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport Administration by taking online classes — even while deployed — said the idea to adopt his squadron developed when he began corresponding with Randy Deere, the Athletic Administration program coordinator.

Usually when an organization plans to adopt soldiers, they take on a platoon or a troop, which are smaller in numbers than a squadron, Brownell said.

But for Deere, there was never any hesitation about the large number.

“Why not?” he said of taking on such a large commitment, adding that the WKU community of more than 21,000 people is well equipped look after these soldiers.

“This is outstanding,” Brownell said. “I didn’t expect this whatsoever.”

The care packages provide the soldiers with much-needed items that they can’t buy for themselves.

“The soldiers look forward to those packages from home,” Brownell said.

Brownell at the luncheon presented President Gary Ransdell with a certificate and an American flag that flew over the squadron’s camp, Camp Clark, in eastern Afghanistan.

“Thank you for your leadership and your commitment,” Ransdell said as he accepted the flag. “You give us great pride in what you’re doing and we’re going to continue to support your squadron.”

Leah Ashwill, director of the ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships, presented Brownell with hundreds of handmade cards from area kids.

The next shipment will be sent on Aug. 15, and the last shipment will be sent Sept. 15, said Amy Fitzpatrick, cohort programs specialist. Anyone who wishes to make a donation to the care packages can contact Fitzpatrick at 734-2710 or [email protected]