MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- On a rainy desert morning, children splished and splashed their way to the front doors of Condor Elementary School wearing rain slickers, galoshes, and brand new backpacks.
On this first day of school, the memory of summer lingered in the air like a fog, but by the end of the school day the sunlight of a new school year was shining in its place.
Elijah Nichols, 6, son of Cpl. Adam Nichols, tank mechanic, 1st Tank Battalion, embarked on his first day of the first grade.
“I was nervous because there was (so many) people and I didn't know anyone,” Elijah said. “But my favorite part of school was (physical education) because I got to do exercises.”
Elijahs' best summer memory was a trip he took to Legoland in San Diego, and also visiting his best friend, Austin, who had moved to a different city.
“I was riding on a dragon roller coaster, it went really fast and it was fun,” Elijah said.
A child carefully chooses their first day of school outfit knowing it will create their peers’ first impression of them. Typically, they will wear something that reflects their personality.
Elijah was sporting a Batman t-shirt and orange shorts for his first day.
“I wore my Batman shirt because I really like him,” Elijah said.
The first days of school are especially exciting because children have so much to look forward to in terms of teachers, friends, activities, and lessons. The days of summer have come and gone, and many new experiences now lie ahead.
Many students were setting foot on the school grounds for the first time, about to discover the wonders of elementary school.
Jimmy Bartholomew, 5, son of Sgt. Lee Bartholomew, military working dog trainer, Provost Marshall's Office, started his journey into formal education with the first day of kindergarten.
“I made two friends,” Jimmy said. “And my favorite part of school was lunchtime because my mom packed me everything.”
Jimmy especially enjoyed getting an elephant sticker in class. He exclaimed that if his teacher gives him 10, he gets a prize.
“I like this sticker because it says welcome to kindergarten,” Jimmy said.
Jimmy kept things simple yet comfortable with a t-shirt with blue jeans for his first day outfit.
“It looks nice,” Jimmy said. “Plus, I'm comfortable at school.”
Jimmy certainly has high hopes for this school year, looking forward to the people and learned lessons that will come with it.
His cheerful attitude will make for a great start to the right of passage all children experience, which will create memories that will define his childhood.
“I'm excited about how much fun I'm going to have in school,” Jimmy said. “I want to learn new things and make new friends.”
Of course, some students were no stranger to Condor and were returning to the school ready for the work and responsibility that comes with a higher grade level.
Destiny Lane, 8, daughter of Sgt. Maj. Rodney Lane, sergeant major, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, was returning to school as a fourth grader.
“I thought my first day was good,” Destiny said. “We got to read and learn to write in cursive.”
Destiny, like most students, made an effort to make new friends.
“After a writing assignment about our hopes for the school year, we did an activity where we walked around to meet each other,” Destiny said.
Destiny had an eventful summer of traveling with her family.
“Over the summer I went to Dallas, Texas, where we visited the Dallas Cowboys stadium,” Destiny said. “We also went swimming and visited relatives in Tyler, Texas.
Destiny wore slate grey jeggings embossed with black roses and a white tunic fashioned with a faux black bow made of sequins around the collar.
“I wore my outfit because I like it a lot,” Destiny said. “I like the roses on the pants and how the sparkles on my shirt look like a tie.”
Destiny’s favorite school subject is math, and she hopes to learn more about it this school year.
“I'm excited about learning more math,” Destiny said. “I really like school.”
Kameron Smallwood, 7, son of Staff Sgt. Clayton Smallwood, Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School, started second grade.
“I have a great teacher, Ms. (Jessica) Dellinger,” Kameron said. “She is very nice.”
Kameron enjoyed recess during school, but because of the rain, he didn’t get to play outside like he wanted to.
“(Recess) was still my favorite part of the day because we played games,” Kameron said. “I played with cards.”
With a great start for his class and optimism for a successful school year, Kameron is ready for the second grade.
”I'm excited to be here at school,” Kameron said. “I think I'll like second grade more than first grade.”
Kylie Stracener, 7, and Delanie Stracener, 5, daughters of Staff Sgt. David Stracener, platoon sergeant, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, began second grade and kindergarten.
“My first day was awesome because I don't have any homework,” Kylie said. “But I’m sad that summer is over.”
During the summer, the girls made a cross-country move from Alabama to Twentynine Palms.
“On the road trip, we saw mountains, the Grand Canyon, and sand twisters,” Kylie said.
Despite the challenges many military children face with not only moving to a new place, but starting their first day at a new school, Kylie and Delanie are already quickly settling in, making their transition a smooth one.
“I made a new friend and she's really fun,” Kylie said.
Like many children, Delanie was apprehensive about her first day of kindergarten. Her mother, Lyndsay Stracner, said Delanie wanted to stay at home the next day with mom and her blankie.
“I didn't make any friends yet,” Delanie said.
Kylie is confident her sister will soon follow her lead and noted she had seen Delanie laughing with fellow kindergarteners at lunchtime.
“I think she made friends,” Kylie said. “And if she didn’t, I know she will.”
For the more 600 students at Condor Elementary School, another year of learning and memorable experiences lies ahead. The start of the school year marks the arrival of another milestone for children in the Combat Center community and their families, providing both with plenty of opportunities to embrace.