KILLEEN, Texas — The sound of cowbells could be heard outside Palo Alto Middle School Monday as Fort Hood soldiers welcomed students for their first day of school. 

Sgt. Carmen Palmer said days like Monday bring back memories.

"It reminds me of the excitement of getting to see my friends after summer break," Palmer said.

Palmer said walking the hall, she saw a lot wide-eyed sixth graders, unsure of their surroundings.

"I saw a lot of kids that are scared or nervous," she said. "I would just tell them to get excited and embrace school and their education. Stay focused and get through your fears."

The soldiers on hand were excited for the opportunity.

"It's a great inspiration for us," said Capt. Brandon Eans, a father himself. "We know that middle schoolers have a hard time transitioning, and eighth graders understand it's their last year, so we kind of provide that buffer here so they understand that we totally support them. We totally understand. We're a part of the community as well."

While confusion reigned supreme on the very first day of classes, Principal Kernisha Hill said the 1-7 Cavalry's presence was immensely helpful.

"It is amazing. They've been very supportive. They are excited," Hill said. "They said they're going to be here to help us with whatever we need throughout the year. That partnership between our campus and the military is excellent."

Palmer said being able to help and make a difference in students' lives is an incredible opportunity.

"It means a lot to me to be able to show our support to the community," Palmer said. "It's a big deal to come out here to our adopted school. We just want them to know that we're here and present and we want to put forth an effort with the school."

Hill said she hopes to keep up that relationship throughout the year.

"I want to keep our doors and lines of communication open," Hill said. "So they know they are welcome here at all times. They have come to find me every hour on the hour to find out what I need and what we need on campus."

Eans said he hopes students will meet any adversity head on and persevere as the year continues.

"I know there's going to be hard times just as in sports, just as in life, but if they continue to press on and endure, there's a bright side at the end of the tunnel," Eans said.

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