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Creating a Piece of History

Fifth-graders at White Oaks Elementary create pages for ‘world’s largest scrapbook.’

Fifth grade students at White Oaks Elementary are creating history. Their work is about to be a part of the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

Connect and Join, a Web site that facilitates communication between deployed troops and their families, initiated a project to show appreciation to American troops and teach children about patriotism. Through its “Connect With The Troops” program, the organization has advertised the construction of the “World’s Largest, Now Greatest, Scrapbook.”

Last May, Connect and Join became a member of America Supports You, a Department of Defense program that recognizes citizens’ support for the military and communicates that support back to the troops. Representatives from the two organizations came together at White Oaks Elementary, Monday, Dec. 4, to say thanks to scrapbook participants there.

“We’re so far from home and we’re there for so long, and we miss things,” said Marine Maj. Matt Morgan, who went to the school on behalf of the military to thank the students. “What you’re doing, it’s really important.”

Teachers facilitating the project are happy that the children are so excited about it. Ralph Davis, a fifth-grade teacher at White Oaks, said the biggest lesson the students are learning is compassion. They’re coming together to learn a lesson about life, he said.

“The lesson to reach out to the troops has been so wonderfully received,” said Davis.

THE SCRAPBOOK has more than 20,000 pages so far, with entries from schools around the country. Linda Dennis, founder and president of Connect and Join, is scheduled to present the scrapbook at halftime of the Armed Forces Bowl football game in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 23. Morgan came to White Oaks to personally tell the students that their thoughtful scrapbook pages mean so much.

“When [troops] are sent overseas and they receive these, they know that you guys are thinking about them and they appreciate that you appreciate what they’re doing,” said Morgan.

The scrapbook project isn’t just about cheering up the troops, though, said Dennis. It also teaches children compassion and patriotism, she said.

“It brings awareness that freedom isn’t free,” said Dennis. “In our history, we’ve had to fight for it to keep it, and these children are learning that.”

The project meant the world to White Oaks student Dustin Jutras. His older brother, Dillon, was killed in Iraq last year. Dustin’s mother, Julia, said he has had a really hard time with his brother’s death.

“He was proud of what he was doing and we were proud of him,” said Julia Jutras. “We still support the military.”

Dustin wrote a poem last Christmas about wanting to give his big brother back to his parents for Christmas. This year, he is giving what he can to his brother’s fellow soldiers.

“It makes me feel good to cheer up the troops a little by sending letters,” said Dustin, 11.