Local soldier ‘Skypes’ in to Spring Hill for Veterans Day

Army Lt. Col. Clete Schaper, on screen at left, was excited to participate in the Veterans Day ceremony at Spring Hill Elementary School in Fayetteville, even though he was thousands of miles away on duty in Afghanistan. Photo/John Munford.

A Fayette County soldier deployed in Afghanistan was able to “come home” for a few minutes Friday morning to participate in the annual Veterans Day program at Spring Hill Elementary.

Using the video conferencing app Skype, Lt. Col. Clete Schaper was broadcast on a large screen, allowing him to communicate with students at Spring Hill including his daughter Wilson, a Spring Hill student, and also his wife Lisa. It was a joyous time for the Schapers because from the beginning of Lt. Col Schaper’s deployment in January he has been unable to Skype with the family because of technical security issues.

A Spring Hill student manned a web cam to serve as Schaper’s eyes for the ceremony, with the keynote speech given by retired Army General Jack Wheeler of Fayetteville and individual recognition of each veteran in the audience along with a roll call of active military on duty here and elsewhere who have ties to Spring Hill students and staff.

But it was Schaper who was the star of the show from thousands of miles away. He watched the dramatic presentations and heard the patriotic music sung by each grade level and by the entire school.

At the end of the program, Schaper said the experience was “a real pleasure.”

“To all our veterans out there, thank you for your for your service and dedication and commitment to our country,” Schaper said. “Our duty in Afghanistan is to honor your service and follow your path.”

Schaper also had kind words in particular for the Cub Scout color guard that posted the American and Georgia flags.

“Those Cub Scouts did a great job ... they certainly may have a future with the U.S. Army!” Schaper said.

Schaper also added kind words for his family in his closing, including son Russ who was unable to attend the ceremony.

“I love you and I can’t wait to see you,” Schaper said.

After the ceremony, Lisa Schaper said she thought the event, and the ability to chat with her husband and lay eyes on him minutes before, “was really great.”
Email may be good for baseline communicating, but the smiles on Lisa and Wilson’s faces, along with the ear-to-ear grin of Lt. Col. Schaper’s, was proof enough that some “face time” is just as important as anything else, even when separated by thousands of miles.

Spring Hill students also celebrated Veterans Day all week by penning 488 letters to soldiers as part of an outreach program.