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Students Say Thanks to Soldiers

Wayside Elementary School students wrote letters and packed food, toiletries and dry goods for soldiers fighting in Iraq as part of the school’s annual Community Service Night Dec. 7.

U.S. Marine Corps Col. John Ewers addressed the nearly 200 students and parents who attended, describing the daily life of marines in Iraq and stressing the morale boost that the packages from home provide.

“[The soldiers] miss all the things that you’re sending them. … What they get in terms of good things come from people like you that remind them how much the American people support what they’re doing. So that’s important. I just again want to tell you how much I appreciate that,” Ewers said.

Ewers, who was in Iraq for several months in 2003 answered questions like: “What is a marine?” “Where do you stay in Iraq?” and “How many times a month do you get your hair cut?”

To a student who asked how many nuclear missiles it takes to blow up a city he replied, “The truth is that I don’t know what the answer to that question is. But it’s something that we’d rather not contemplate because we don’t ever want to go there. That’s why we have the U.S. Marines.”

The event was organized by PTA community service chairs Helene Glick and Gail Allen. The PTA connected with Ewers through his sister, who is a teacher at Our Lady of Victory in Washington and Ewers provided contact information for commanders who could receive the goods and distribute them to their troops.

In addition to collecting items from the school community, the PTA got donations from local businesses like Giant, Safeway, Trader Joe's, even dental offices that contributed toothbrushes. U-Haul donated the boxes that will be used to ship the goods.

The goal is to “Help them because they don’t have that much stuff there,” said second-grader Natalie Allen, Gail Allen’s daughter. The school is sending  “Toiletries toothbrushes, books, magazines, toothpaste and other stuff” she said, because, “they don’t have lots of stores there.”

“We were just saying happy holidays, thank you for fighting for our country and things like that,” she said.

In a separate but related effort, second-grade teachers and Student Government Association heads Jennifer Lewington and Rebecca O’Malley collected goods to be sent to wounded soldiers getting ready to leave Iraq for military hospitals in Germany. The soldiers often have to travel without basic possessions like a toilet kit and fresh socks and underwear.

“I’m very proud to be a citizen of Bethesda and Montgomery County for all the great things you’re all doing,” Ewers said.