Woodlawn students send 'home' to Marines

December 20, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

Come Christmas morning, some Marines in Iraq are going to feel a little closer to home for the holidays, thanks to fifth graders at Woodlawn Elementary.

What started out as a modest plan to send a care package of needed goodies to one Marine turned into a Christmas rush and ultimately ended up filling the wish lists of 11 Marines.

"At first, we just had the name of one Marine, but we had such a huge response," said teacher David Roberts, who coordinated the effort with Sandy Buckingham, the mother of one of Roberts' students. "I put a box outside my door and we had to empty it three times on the first day."

Students brought in items like beef jerky, wet wipes, toothpaste, bandanas and cookies. They topped off each package with hand-written holiday greetings. The packages were sent Dec. 1, to guarantee their arrival by Christmas. The gifts will be distributed to the most needy Marines via the Adopt-A-Marine program.


"Whenever we were putting it into the boxes to send to them, it made me feel good to see all the stuff we were going to send to the ones who need it the most," said Cori Belcher, Buckingham's daughter.

Hannah Luttrell contributed baby powder, caramels and books to some lucky Marine.

"It made me feel pretty happy because I knew that they would probably like getting stuff, but it also made me sad because they won't be home with their families for Christmas," Hannah said.

The students already know their efforts are appreciated. Major Dolph Davis of the Marine Medium Assault Support Helicopter Squadron, CH-46 Sea Knights, sent a letter and photos of Marines with the care packages.

Letter gives details about the Marine unit

Davis' letter provides details about his unit and what it does. The youngest Marine is 17, the oldest 47. The unit is nicknamed "The Phrogs." They have 12 helicopters equipped with 50-caliber machine guns. They usually fly their mission "under the cover of darkness" and use night-vision goggles to see, Davis wrote.

"Please know that this support brings a small part of home here," Davis said in his letter. "The people in this squadron are reservists from all walks of life, and are doing a super job in what they have been assigned."

Roberts, who is in his first year at Woodlawn, said he hopes the Christmas project will evolve into a pen pal relationship with some of the Marines. The kids are already excited about their participation with the Marines, Roberts said, and it would be cool if it developed into something more.

"I hope once we start a correspondence with the Marines, we will have classroom discussions about what is going on in Iraq," he said. "I hope this does spark an interest in the students. It teaches them no matter how we feel about the war, we have an obligation to care for and honor our Marines."

The project also teaches a worthy seasonal lesson.

"It's a great character education lesson in generosity," Roberts said.

Student Lucas Edelen picked up on the message.

"I learned that Christmas is about giving, not receiving," Lucas said.

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