St. Mary's kids care for soldiers
The fourth grade classroom at St. Mary's Catholic School in Morris has an American flag that was carried in a Black Hawk mission in Kuwait earlier this year.
The students received the flag because of a relationship they've formed with National Guard soldier Amy Barnum. The students regularly send Barnum letters and care packages and do the same for National Guard soldier Gerald Loher, who is stationed at the same base as Barnum.
"I always feel good after we send the boxes, knowing they are going to get them," student Allison Albrecht said.
"When we send the boxes it feels really good (to me) to know we are thinking about them," student Riley Sato said. "(Soldiers) must feel pretty good (to receive them)."
"If I were a soldier I would cry with happiness," student Berdine Kleindl said.
The life of a soldier is difficult, the students said.
Albrecht said the soldiers eat the same seven meals throughout the entire year they are on the base in Kuwait. For example, it would be hamburger day every Monday.
"I think it would be boring to eat the same thing every week," student Ben Hallman said.
"Soldiers don't get to watch TV (like students do)," student Billy Young said. "They exercise. They don't get to sit on the couch like we do."
"I sort of feel like they don't have much time to stop, to call (family)," Sato said.
Barnum is a high school friend of the students' teacher Tanya Fischer. She lives in the Brainerd area. Loher is a Morris native who lives in the Fargo area. He is the nephew of school secretary Darla Loher.
"Loher goes on active missions. His job is kind of secret," student Cole Pederson said.
Barnum's work is also secret but she keeps track of activities while on base, Fischer said.
The soldiers have been able to write back to students. "Sometimes they send photos of what they are doing," student Braelyn Hamling said. Barnum has sent a photo of an airplane that flies in Kuwait.
The students have gotten to know some of the things the soldiers enjoy. They try to pack those items in the monthly care boxes.
Loher likes Red Vine licorice and Barnum likes candy bars with almonds, student Davis Mundal said. They both like to get lotion, shampoo, toothpaste and similar items.
The students fill a special military postal box that is sent to each soldier.
Barnum told the students that she waited until Christmas to open her Christmas box. "Nobody had ever sent her a Christmas (present) before when she was deployed," student Ruby Lohtka said. This is Barnum's third deployment.
The students said they also pray regularly for the soldiers. They pray that the soldiers stay safe and that they don't miss their families too much.
Student Kendal Fischer said the letters and care packages can help the soldiers not miss their families too much.
The class plans to send one more care box to each soldier before the school year ends but it also wants to help the families in the U.S.
While one more care box is important, Pederson, whose dad and uncle have been deployed, suggested the class send one care box each to the families of Barnum and Loher, Tanya Fischer said.
The class plans to send those care boxes before the school year ends, she said.
Tanya Fischer said some of the students have said they may try and stay in touch until the soldiers expected return to the U.S. in July.