CLEARFIELD -- Who knew you could learn so much from a story about a cat named Pickles?
As part of a 9/11 grant the Utah Commission on Volunteering gave to United Way, five employees from Hill Air Force Base read books to students at Hill Field Elementary School on Thursday afternoon.
The stories were just as exciting for the kindergartners, first- and second-graders as they were for the members of the military who read the books to the classes.
"I read this same book when I was growing up, so when I realized what it was my eyes got real big," said Senior Airman Jeff Seabolt, 25, who read "Going to the Firehouse" from the Little Critter series. "It was like a flashback."
Capt. Steve Jensen, 30, who usually spends his time flying F16s, read "The Fire Cat" to a group of second-graders.
In the book, a cat named Pickles was once a bully who chased other cats up trees. Then, Pickles gets stuck in a tree and has to be rescued by a firefighter. Pickles soon becomes the firehouse cat and, at the end of the story aids in the rescue of a cat who is stuck up the same tree where Pickles was stranded.
"What can we learn from this story?" Jensen said.
Nearly every hand in the room shot up and the ensuing answers included, "Cats can do what dogs can do," "Be nice to everybody," and "He learned he could do big things."
Besides providing the students with a fun experience in class, the books have a deeper meaning. Each book was donated to the school and has a nameplate in the front mentioning Brady Howell, who had local ties and died at the Pentagon on 9/11. The books also included an envelope with Brady's story inside.
"This is an opportunity to bring the military into schools and keep 9/11 at the forefront," said Jeff Rodseth, a United Way volunteer.
Airman 1st Class Derius Richardson, 21, read two books to a group of kindergartners, including "Will You be My Friend?" which Richardson read when he was 5 years old.
"Just to know that 10 years later, I'm helping them remember 9/11 is great," Richardson said.
The kids enjoyed Richardson's reading of "The Red Fire Engine" as well, although they were more excited about the fire engine siren sound that came each time Richardson pushed a button.
"We want to hear the fire truck and see the pages," said 5-year-old Joshua Barthord.
Tech Sgt. Terri Adams, 29, and Senior Airman Leah Purdy, 21, also enjoyed reading to the students. For Purdy, Thursday was the fourth time this year she has done volunteer work at the school.
"It was great, and they had a lot of questions," Purdy said. "I just enjoy getting to work with the kids."