on image for publication quality photo
LETTERS FROM HOME – Students in one of Southeastern
Louisiana University English professor Beth Calloway’s freshman composition
classes address envelopes for the letters they have written letters to
an Army unit in Iraq. The letters will greet the approximately 100 soldiers
when they return to their home base in Germany early next year. Calloway’s
son-in-law, former Southeastern student Mark Bird of Baton Rouge, is a
captain in the unit, the 4-3 Air Defense Artillery, Headquarters Battery,
in Tikrit, Iraq.
CONNECTION – The Sabers – the 4-3 Air Defense Artillery, Headquarters Battery
– shown in Tikrit, Iraq -- will be welcomed home to their base in Germany
early next year by letters from Southeastern and Southeastern Lab School
THE TROOPS -- Southeastern Lab School sixth grade teacher Cindy Faller
compliments Jessica Holmes on the letter she wrote to one of the Sabers,
an Army batter with Southeastern connections, currently stationed in Iraq.
Jessica encouraged the Sabers to “remember happy memories” to combat holiday
SOUTHEASTERN, LAB SCHOOL STUDENTS SEND CHEER TO SOLDIERS IN IRAQ
HAMMOND – Students at Southeastern
Louisiana University and the Southeastern Laboratory School are sending
“a little piece of home” to soldiers who will be returning in early 2005
to their base in Germany after a year in war-torn Iraq.
The students have written letters
to the soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 4-3 Air Defense Artillery, Headquarters
Battery, in Tikrit, Iraq. Known as “the Sabers,” the 80 men and 20 women,
many single and in their early 20s, provide security for the Forward Operating
Base Danger in Tikrit. Their duties include running convoys and providing
“early warning” aerial radar pictures of specific regions in Iraq.
The letter writing campaign evolved
from the Sabers’ Southeastern family connection.
Sabers Capt. Mark Bird of Baton Rouge is a former student, as is his
wife Christa, who is part of the battery’s Family Support Group at its
base in Germany. And on the home front, Christa’s sister Laura Crafton
is a Southeastern education graduate student and mother Beth Calloway is
a member of the English Department faculty.
When Christa Bird asked her family
for help in collecting letters and other goodies to welcome the battery
back to Germany, Crafton and Calloway were eager to help.
“The idea is to send thanks and
appreciation to these young soldiers from all over the United States who
will be returning from Iraq to empty barracks in Germany,” Crafton said.
“They will have come from a foreign country, after having risked their
lives, to another foreign country. Our goal is to send a little piece of
home to them in hopes of making their return from war more cheery and a
little less lonely.”
Calloway asked the students in
her four English composition classes if they wanted to participate, while
Crafton made the same appeal to Lab School junior high teachers Cindy Faller,
Heidi Rhea and Dorothy Boyette.
As a result, the mother and daughter
now have gathered approximately 170 letters, which Calloway will hand-carry
to Germany in mid-December.
More than 60 Lab School students
wrote their letters, appropriately, on Veteran’s Day. In Faller’s sixth
grade class on Nov. 11, the students were busy personalizing each message
with red-white-and-blue artistic flair. Some addressed their faraway recipients
as “Dear Hero.”
“It’s almost Christmas,” said
Kelsey Bittola. “They don’t get to see their families, but maybe we can
bring them some happiness.”
“It’s time for them to have some
joy in their life,” Crystal Gonzales agreed.
Recalling her own sadness while
away from home during a holiday, Jessica Holmes said she encouraged her
solider to “remember happy memories.”
Calloway brought her students
flag-decorated stationary and envelopes for their letters. In her own letter,
she told the Sabers how her students had reacted to an assigned essay debating
whether World War II’s generation was the “Greatest Generation.”
“A number of them wrote, yes
that generation should be called great, but maybe not the ‘greatest,’”
Calloway recounted. “A number of them discussed the sacrifices your generation
is now making in Iraq and in other countries around the world.”
In addition to his letter, student
Todd Calmes of Hammond, a Navy veteran who manages the photography department
at Sears in Hammond Square Mall, was able to make a special contribution,
thanks to his employer. As part of a nationwide project to support American
troops, Sears photo customers at each store are invited to include one
of their prints, along with a personal note, in scrapbooks that will be
forwarded to military units overseas.
Calmes said he originally planned
to send his store’s book to a buddy who is still in the Navy, but has now
turned it over to Calloway to take to Germany.
The letters penned by Calloway’s
classes reflected the students’ gratitude, admiration and prayers for the
“I am glad you are willing to
serve to provide security and safety for people like me in uncertain times,”
one student wrote.
Another wrote, “You have sacrificed
your lives, your freedoms, your family and friends and all the accommodations
this country has to offer so that we can continue to live the lives we
are accustomed to. Who could ask for more?”
“I would never be brave enough
to do what you do and can’t even imagine what you’re going through,” a
third student said.
Crafton said the Sabers plan
to write back. “The troops in Iraq are planning certificates, letters,
and pictures to personally thank all of those involved,” she said.
She said other members of the
campus or community who want to send letters can contact her at laracc@I-55.com.