Students at Pearl River Central High School said good bye Friday to teacher and head football coach Michael Bradley. Bradley is a captain in the Mississippi National Guard and has been called to duty in Iraq.
Bradley's tenth grade world history class didn't want him to leave the school without telling him how much he'll be missed.
"He's more than just a coach or a teacher, he's like our friend and comes to a level with us that really no one else can reach with us," 10th Grade Student Arielle Capooth said.
Senior Ben McGilton echoed her words.
"He inspires you to work through his attitude. It's hard to see a figure like that have to go off and leave."
The emotion of Coach Bradley's departure was easy to see as several shed tears.
"They understand that I have a job that I have to do. It's a duty. It's a higher calling and they respect that, but at the same time, their love and compassion has really been difficult to deal with," Bradley said.
He leaves with mixed emotions. Bradley says he's proud to serve his country, but sad to leave his family, students, and the football team he led to the first winning season in ten years.
"These kids and this school - I've come to love them. It's going to be difficult, but I've got a job. I'm going to go do the best I can and try to come home safely," Bradley said.
The Pearl River Central Blue Devils will likely have to play the 2004 season without Coach Bradley. The captain's deployment with the 298th Support Battalion will last at least a year.