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Marine Stands Guard In Front Of California School Following Newtown Tragedy

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Mourners depart the funeral of slain teacher Victoria Soto, 27, at the Lordship Community Church on Dec. 19, 2012 in Stratford, Conn. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

Mourners depart the funeral of slain teacher Victoria Soto, 27, at the Lordship Community Church on Dec. 19, 2012 in Stratford, Conn. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

HUGHSON, Calif. (AP) — A Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan took up self-imposed duty in front of a central California elementary school in the wake of the Connecticut shooting.

Hughson Elementary School Principal Laura Fong said Sgt. Craig Pusley stood all day Wednesday in fatigues in front of the flag pole at the school just southeast of Modesto. He was not armed.

Pusley, who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan before leaving active duty last year, told Fong that “he wanted to make the kids feel safe in light of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary,” the principal said.

The veteran Marine arrived at the K-3 school a little before 7:30 am, Fong said, and asked permission to stand guard. He stood in front of the flag pole until 2:30 p.m., she said, without taking any breaks.

Sgt. Pusley is a father of a three-year-old and his wife is expecting another child. He told the Modesto Bee that he decided to take action after reading a Facebook post urging soldiers to be posted at every school in the wake of last week’s tragic shooting in Connecticut.

“When I enlisted, I swore to defend this country from all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Sgt. Pusley said. “I just want to be sure all these kids go home safe for Christmas.”

Fong said Pusley is returning Thursday, the school’s last day before the holiday break.

“It really is kind of heartwarming to know someone would do something like that,” Fong said. “It makes me and my staff feel safer. After a shooting, there’s always a heightened awareness that this could happen anywhere.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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