Thursday, November 21, 2013

Holiday Cheer for our Soldiers Overseas

I am a sucker for military reunions. It can be a parent and a child, a husband and wife, or young couples in love. Regardless of the pairing, that spontaneous emotional embrace that marks each reunion gets me every time. I never get through a televised reuniting without shedding a tear or two.

I admire the sacrifices that our servicemen and women make to protect our freedoms and ideals, and I respect them for their courage and dedication, but I can't help feeling sad that families have to be separated to achieve this greater good.

Last year, when my good friend asked if I could have my students make Christmas cards for her nephew who was recently stationed overseas in Afghanistan, I jumped at the opportunity. I figured some homemade cards and heartfelt gratitude were the least I could do for Michael, in return for the huge sacrifice he was making for all of us.

On the day we made the cards in class, we listened to "Soldier's Christmas Eve" by the Scooter Brown Band and analyzed the lyrics as a literacy lesson. Once the kids concluded who we were making cards for, they set right to work making the most sincere and adorable missives. The care and detail that they put into their illustrations and their writing was heartwarming. I never saw them so motivated to spell and punctuate everything correctly.

Since they were so enthusiastic about making the cards, I decided to extend the activity when our kindergarten buddies came in the next day. I came up with a cute little poem and a simple Christmas tree for the kids to color together. This is the poem:
We mounted the poems on construction paper along with the red, white, and blue Christmas trees (Here's the link: colored by our buddies, and I mailed the cards and poems along with all the love and support that would fit in one large manila envelope.

Yesterday, I received this email:

 Hi Stacy,

Sorry for taking so long to get back to you and your students. I just wanted to express my thanks and appreciation as well as that of all the other guys in my platoon. Your cards and poems were awesome and incredibly well done.  I can see you have some very talented students in your class! Your work made our holidays extra special.  We hung up your letters and poems around the office and made it as festive as possible. I wish I could show you pictures, but our office is a secret so unfortunately we can not take pictures of it! Now the holidays have passed, but we still keep your cards hanging just to remind us of the support we have back home!
Thank your students and send a special thanks to the kindergarten class that helped with the project. We felt the love in every card and appreciated every word that was written. Please share this with your students and let them know how much we loved what they did! Maye one of these days I'll be able to send you guys a picture of us!

With love from Afghanistan,
Michael Hiltwine

If you have the opportunity to correspond with military personnel stationed abroad, I strongly recommend you seize the chance. If there was ever an authentic audience your students will be motivated to write for, this is it! And your heart will be full of the goodwill and love you are putting out into the universe.

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