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Valentines for Veterans

 Veterans who have dedicated their lives to serving their country will have something to smile about this Valentine’s Day, thanks to students from two Union County elementary schools.

For five consecutive years, students in Cathy Reese’s fourth-grade class at Indian Trail Elementary School have participated in the Valentines for Vets project, an annual endeavor that sends student-made Valentine cards to service members with the Wounded Warrior Project at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

What started as a one-classroom project has grown to a school-wide effort in which Indian Trail Elementary students of all ages send cards to the heroes at Lejeune.

“The fourth grade sponsored the project (this year) as a community service project, and other classes were invited to participate,” Reese said. “So, it was a school-wide project.”

Reese invites a military representative to visit her class each year to collect the Valentine cards and talk to her students about how the cards benefit the Wounded Warriors.

The Valentines for Vets project didn’t just expand school-wide this year, however, as it also has found a home in a new school, as well.

Students and faculty at Rea View Elementary School in Waxhaw jumped on board with the project, creating hundreds of their own Valentine cards for the Wounded Warriors at Camp Lejeune. Cathy’s husband, Jim Reese, a fifth-grade teacher at Rea View, helped bring the project to his school, along with fourth- and fifth-grade students from the school’s student council.

“Since kids like to get Valentine cards, we thought, ‘Why not do something different with it?’” Jim said. “… It gives (students) the opportunity to recognize the heroes, and (the veterans) are considered heroes.”

Richard Mitchells, chaplain with Charlotte’s Marine Corps League Detachment 750, visited both schools on Friday, Feb. 6, to collect the Valentine cards and talk to the students about the Wounded Warriors at Camp Lejeune. Mitchells was an active-duty U.S. Marine for four years in the early 1950s, serving during the Korean War. He continues to serve his country through his passion for veterans’ organizations, and said he was excited to be a part of the Valentines for Vets project.

“The veterans down there really feel that they’re not forgotten, that they’re remembered,” Mitchells said. “They really, really appreciate getting these Valentines.”

The Valentines for Vets project resonated with a number of students in Cathy’s class who have parents and other family members who either have previously served or are currently serving in the armed forces.

Indian Trail Fourth-grader Emily Becker brought her dad’s medal and certificate honoring his service in the U.S. Marine Corps to show Mitchells and her classmates.

“To show everybody how proud I am of my dad, that was awesome,” Emily said. “To, you know, have a veteran in my family, and it being my dad is really awesome.”

Logan Arnold, also a fourth-grader at Indian Trail, brought his dad’s U.S. Air Force medal. Logan’s dad is currently serving overseas, and the family isn’t sure when he’s going to be able to come home.

“I (enjoyed) getting to show the class what my dad gave me and what he’s worked for – to protect our country,” Logan said.

Fourth-grader Andrew Brown put his creative skills to the test by crafting a poem for veterans, which he read during Mitchells’s visit. Andrew’s poem was inspired by a poetry slam the school hosted several weeks ago.

“I just put two things that our school was doing together and made something for the cards,” Andrew said. “I also put two copies of this (poem) in two of the cards … I loved the feel of reading it to a veteran.”

Cathy said the Indian Trail Elementary community has been continually supportive of Valentines for Vets, and she’s grateful for the opportunity to continue expanding the program each year.

Jim Reese said he was pleased with the response he received from students and faculty at Rea View Elementary and hopes to make Valentines for Vets an annual event at his school. He also hopes the combined efforts of Indian Trail and Rea View will inspire other schools to give back, as well.

“There’s the question, ‘Is this something else other schools could try, down the road?’” he said. “It’s like Christmas. We send packages to the (service members) overseas for Christmas. This is something similar to that, and it’s great for the people down at Camp Lejeune – they really appreciate it.”

Written by: Josh Whitener (Carolina Weekly Newspapers)
Posted: Feb 20, 2015 by Jessica Cosma

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