After almost a whole year away, Shawano Community High School was happy to welcome back English teacher, Ms. Marena Erickson on Monday, March 25. Ms. Erickson has been in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for the past ten months serving our country in the National Guard.
Ms. Erickson deployed around April of last year and spent close to ten months in Cuba. She served as a Public Affairs Broadcast Sergeant, and her job was to facilitate tours of the detention facilities and set up any interviews for media members visiting.
“We kind of become the face of Guantanamo Bay. We are the first people that the media people see when they get off of the plane, and the last people that they see as they fly away from Guantanamo,” stated Ms. Erickson.
Being a member of the military, Ms. Erickson has had opportunities to travel that most do not ever have. She has been all over the world, and even been to places that she did not even know existed prior to her military career.
“I had the fantastic opportunity to go to Estonia one time, no joke,” Ms. Erickson continued. “When they were like, ‘You’re going to Estonia’ I was like, ‘Is that a country?’”
Estonia is a Baltic state near Russia and is extremely cold year round. Cuba, on the other hand, is the exact opposite.
“Hot doesn’t even begin to cover it. In the summer we were flirting with 120 degrees,” expressed Ms. Erickson. “It’s a wet heat, so you walk outside of your barracks, and it’s like breathing through a wet blanket.”
Although getting the opportunity to explore the world was great, Ms. Erickson had to leave behind the ones that she loved the most.
“It’s really hard being the mom of a toddler and only getting to interact with her through facetime,” said Ms. Erickson. “I was worried that she would forget me, but she didn’t.”
Because she is a teacher, Ms. Erickson had to be away from more than just her family at home. She also had to temporarily say goodbye to her co-workers and students.
“I missed my career and you guys [students]. I feel like I’m really in my element at Shawano High School, and this has become a home away from home for me. The knowledge that you guys were all in great hands with Mrs. Pyatskowit was super reassuring because I knew that I would come back, and she would keep the love and learning alive in the classroom,” explained Ms. Erickson.
Every day Ms. Erickson teaches her students, but while she was away Ms. Erickson learned some of her own lessons.
“My biggest takeaway from this experience is the understanding that it is not possible for a soldier to accomplish their mission without the support of their friends, family and coworkers back home. Everything has to be squared away on the homefront for us to be able to focus on our job and get that job done when you go overseas,” stated Ms. Erickson.
Ms. Erickson was missed by everyone at SCHS, and the school is glad to have back the light and laughter that had been absent.