Third-grader gets big surprise from Army 'shero' - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Third-grader gets big surprise from Army 'shero'

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A Myrtle Beach third-grader got a special surprise today in school in Thursday -- an assembly in her honor. 

Brittany Bitner's class at Myrtle Beach Elementary School wrote letters to men and women in the military. Her letter ended up in the hands of Army Staff Sergeant Melissa Dion, whose home base is in Horry County when she's not on active duty.  Dion said she knew immediately
from Brittany's letter that she wanted to meet her. 

"I was sitting at a luncheon and I was reading, and the first letter I grabbed was Brittany's, and I read the letter, and I looked at everyone at my table and said I have to meet Brittany," Dion said. 

Thursday morning, Dion had the chance at an assembly in Brittany's honor.

"And I have the letter here today and I'm going to read it to you guys. But first I need to find Brittany. Brittany Bitner?"

Brittany was called to the stage with cheers and applause. "Do you mind if I read your letter out loud?" Dion asked. 

Brittany revealed in her letter that she has always wanted to become a firefighter. Dion read the letter aloud including, "And because there are some girl soldiers too and I admire them because they make me want to be a firefighter even though I'm a girl."

Dion, a 22-year Army medic, has been deployed four times. She said as a woman, it is more challenging, but that didn't stop her.
"I want you guys to know that you can do whatever you want to do," Dion told the auditorium of elementary students. "You can be whatever you want to be. You can join the military, you can be a firefighter, you can be anything that you want to be."

Dion gave Brittany a coin to hold onto.

The other half of Brittany's surprise was a visit from the Myrtle Beach Fire Department.  Firefighters set up an obstacle course for her to complete in front of her entire school. 

Dion said there were two messages she wants the kids to take away.  "One: I want Brittany to know she can be whatever she wants, and all the children can be whatever they want. And I wanted the children to know that these letters go somewhere. Every soldier that gets a box, we read those letters. Cause it's something from home. It reminds us that we're not forgotten while we're over there."

Brittany said one day she still hopes to be a firefighter.

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