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Children share part of home in heartfelt letters to troops.

Byline: Scott Maben The Register-Guard

ELMIRA - "My name is Nick."

A good start, but 8-year-old Nick Wisely paused to think about what he wanted to tell the Marine corporal in a far away place called Iraq.

"I want to thank you for protecting are country," he continued in meticulous strokes between the widely spaced lines of the school's stationery.

The second-grader at Elmira Elementary stopped again and glanced around the classroom at other students bent over their letters. Then he plunged into thought again, searching for the words to brighten a soldier's day.

"I hope you had a good Easter," he wrote. "I hope the woer is over so you can see your familie."

The recent holiday was on the mind of 7-year-old Levi Wyman as well. He mentioned Easter four times in his brief letter to another Marine corporal.

"I went Easter egg hunting and found 15 eggs," he wrote. "I hope you come home soon."

Students in two of the school's classrooms spent part of Thursday morning writing cards and letters and drawing pictures for some of the local troops deployed for the war.

The sentiments - many patriotic, some poignant - will be bundled up and mailed to Marines with the Eugene-based 6th Engineering Support Battalion, Company A.

"It just comes from their hearts," said Leslie Knutson, a third-grade teacher at the school. "It makes me have tears."

It's the second time the students have written U.S. troops this year. The effort was coordinated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and auxiliaries serving Coburg, Elmira, Veneta, Crow, Noti and Lorane. The organizations adopted the local Marines under the VFW's military assistance program.

"We promise to write and send care packages," said Laurel Laing, president of VFW Ladies Auxiliary 9448. "We send them calling cards and take care of their families here, whether it's financial support or just giving them someone to talk to."

The Marine unit is about 60 miles south of Baghdad, working on water-purification projects and hauling bulk fuel to power generators in areas where the power is still out.

The letters from local children help boost the morale of the troops who will spend months away from their families, said Ron Gallagher, commander of Fern Ridge Post 9448 and a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam.

"Having been in that kind of situation, I can tell you it's very uplifting," Gallagher said. "I would say it's equal to Mom's home cooking being sent there. It's a part of home."

In the first batch of letters, sent in February before the war began, 8-year-old Rachael Smith wrote a four-page letter to a lance corporal. She was full of questions:

"Do you have a pet at your house? Do you have children? Are you a only child? Do you live on a farm? Is it fun to be in the (service)? Are you Cathlick? Are you a boy or girl?"

Brice Keeler, 9, shared that his hobbies include soccer, football, baseball and basketball, that he has three pets, including a beagle named Jackson, and that a new skate park just opened by his grandmother's house.

"What did you do when you were in school," he asked, then quickly added, "My favorit animal is a pig."

Emily Sanders, 7, said she had fun writing her letter to a lance corporal: "I think it's nice because they don't hardly get anything over there in the war."

In Knutson's class, many of the boys drew pictures of tanks and fighter jets and helicopters in battle. Others created flags or hearts on their cards. Melanie Sylvestre, 9, made one with a flower on it.

"Go U.S.A.," she wrote inside. "Thank you for fighting for us all the time."

LETTERS TO MARINES

From Elmira Elementary students to Marines in Iraq:

"Hello! How are you? My name is Alejandra and I am from Mexico. I like living here because I like Oregon. Thank you for being in the service and for protecting our country. Love, Alejandra."

- ALEJANDRA

FABELA, 8

"Hello, my name is Emily Noel Sanders. I live in Elmira. I go to Elmira Elementary School. How is the war going. I hope it's going good. Also I hope nobody is hurt. Thank you for protecting are country. ... I hope you and the other sergents are safe. I really hope you had a good Easter. Sincerely, Emily."

- EMILY SANDERS, 7

"How are you guys doing in Kuwait? I have a good feeling that you are going to come back safely, and I know that your family is really nervous. Thank you for going to Kuwait and fighting for the USA. But if you don't come back I will always think of you in my heart like I am now."

- DEVON DAVIS, 9

CAPTION(S):

Nick Wisely, 8, a second-grader at Elmira Elementary, writes to Eugene area Marines in the 6th Engineering Support Battalion, Company A, currently 60 miles south of Baghdad. Letters: Messages boost troop morale Continued from Page C1 Shanon Crawford, 9, a third-grader at Elmira Elementary, puts the finishing touches on a card she made for Eugene area Marines in Iraq. "Victory is ours. I have a good feeling that we will win. I hope no one will diye." - ALEX CLUCK, 9
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Title Annotation:Elmira Elementary students tell a Marine unit in Iraq about what's on their minds; General News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 25, 2003
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