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TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2007
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E. Lawrence principal back from Iraq with gifts for board

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — East Lawrence High School principal Ricky Nichols presented an American flag and military coins to the Lawrence County school board Monday, but board members said Nichols was the one deserving gifts of appreciation.

Nichols, a lieutenant colonel in the Alabama National Guard, returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq on June 5.

He spent the last year with his unit, the 6th Battalion, 12th Brigade of the 108th Division, training Iraqi soldiers in military communication techniques.

Upon returning to East Lawrence, Nichols immediately got back to work in the school system, said Superintendent Dexter Rutherford, and he attended a school board work session and meeting Monday evening.

Nichols said he was grateful for the board's ability to discuss sensitive issues like consolidation, the night's hot topic.

"While I was there, I got to sit in on Iraqi parliamentary meetings and Saddam Hussein trials. I saw that democracy usually falls somewhere in the middle," he said. "That's what I see happening here, and it's a good thing."

He reluctantly broke into tears while presenting his gifts to the board members. He said he hoped the flag would serve "as a reminder of some of these soldiers who won't be coming back ... some of whom I've had the privilege of serving."

He then gave each board member a military coin that he called a "challenge coin."

"It's customary in the military that when someone does something to deserve appreciation, there is a coin that is given out," said Nichols. "It challenges you to continue what you're doing and to strive to do more."

Nichols will resume his position as principal in the fall.

His interim replacement, Karen Hitt, is transferring to the federal programs officer position that will be vacant when Brenda Terry retires in July.

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