A letter from home can be a great comfort to a man or woman training to serve in the U.S. armed services, especially if they haven’t received a card or letter from a friend or family member.
It’s a sad fact, and one that most people might not realize: New military recruits completing 12 weeks of basic training cannot take calls on a cell phone, receive emails, or even go on Facebook. They are cut off from everyone they know–with the exception of old-fashioned letters.
teacher Paula Consiglio-Marsh learned of this when her nephew, Nathan Rhea, signed up with the U.S. Marines, and a classroom assignment was born: The computer teacher had her class write Rhea letters to soldiers training alongside her nephew at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island in South Carolina.
“Nathan told my sister that some soldiers do not receive any letters from home,” she said. “Here they are, preparing to serve our country, and they haven’t received a letter.”
For students, the opportunity to write letters to soldiers is a chance to personally reach out to military personnel to recognize their service, Consiglio-Marsh said. Additionally, the students are learning there are real people affected by concepts they are studying in the classroom and hearing about in news broadcasts.
So far, about 100 letters have been written by Consiglio-Marsh’s students.
A Big Thank You
Many of the new recruits serving at Parris Island are in their late teens and early 20s–not much older than the middle school students that have written letters.
For 12-year-old John Paul Vega, a seventh grader at O.L. Smith, writing the letters meant a chance to make a soldier feel better during training.
“I feel bad that some soldiers don’t get any mail,” he said. “So I just tell them to stay strong, and thank them for serving our country.”
Zach Koenig, 13 and an eighth grader, said soldiers are taking on a lot of responsibility by serving.
“When you think about it, they’re making a sacrifice to make sure that we’re all safe,” he said. “And, they’re going to be away from their families this holiday season.”
The students thought long and hard about the messages they wanted to send to the soldiers. Twelve-year-old Tiffany Trimmer, who is in the seventh grade, wrote: “I know training for the Marines is probably really tough, but all you really do is hang in there and be the best you can be. Good luck and stay strong!”
A Personal Connection
Though the students are not specifically studying the current war, they are learning about colonial wars, Word War II and the Vietnam War–which for young people today can seem like ancient history until they realize men and women are fighting a war today.
Consiglio-Marsh said she keeps her students updated about Nathan’s training, so they can learn more about what it means to be a soldier.
And, the concept of making contact with soldiers in the field expanded when the students had an opportunity to make holiday cards for soldiers which were added to care packages sent to Afghanistan last week by volunteers at .
Jodi Guinon, an enrollment technician at the college, said nine huge boxes of supplies including the cards, warm blankets, holiday decorations, toiletries, knit hats, candy canes and beef jerky were sent to Afghanistan after employees and students collected items and donations.
“A personal message can mean a lot to [soldiers] when they’re out there,” said Guinon. “I think it helps a great deal to them to know that people back home are thinking about them.”
Consiglio-Marsh said her students have learned a valuable lesson that far exceeds how to use a computer or compose a letter.
“I think they understand how much of a sacrifice being soldier can be,” she said.