Airmen, kids make valentines for deployed personnel

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Mesa Elementary School third graders brought colored pencils, crayons, markers and glue to the gym. Construction paper was provided by the school and airmen from Cannon Air Force Base helped the students create Valentine’s cards.

By Sarah Meyer, Freedom New Mexico

The Cannon Air Force Base’s Company Grade Officers Club teamed up with Mesa Elementary School last week to produce hundreds of “Valentines for Vets.”

The handmade Valentine cards will go to military members deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Cannon and school officials.
Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders worked with Cannon officers to create the cards. Parents also volunteered and school personnel helped make sure everybody had plenty of construction paper.

Students in other classes also contributed cards.

Staff Sgt. Sherron Drayton said letting servicemembers know they’re cared for is important, as she helped third-grader Jaleel Lee cut out construction paper hearts.

“They’re the reason I’m able to move forward,” she said. “When I was in the desert and received cards, I really appreciated it.”
Second Lt. Ryan Bamford said many deployed servicemembers don’t have anyone sending them care packages.

“It’s a pretty nasty environment sometimes,” he said of being deployed. “It’s nice to get things sometimes and know that people care about the effort you’re putting in.”

In addition to Valentine’s Day wishes, many of the students included appreciation for military service in their cards.
Jaleel included this statement: “We really want to thank you for fighting for us.”

“I want you to help our country and I want you to win,” third-grader Madison Dial wrote.

The students and the airmen said they enjoyed the event.

“I think it’s really cool to write from here to soldiers in Iraq,” Chance Mitchell said.

Benjamin Blanco said he had never met an airman before Friday.

“It’s cool to be meeting people in the Air Force,” Coty Reed said. “We’re making cards for people in the Air Force that can’t really talk to their family. They’ll be proud to know that someone here is thinking of them.”

Librarian Kelly Martin said it was great to see military personnel, school staff and parents working with the children on the project. “The Valentine’s cards show that we support them and support all they do for our country.”

Chris Cook, who regularly substitutes at Mesa, said it was fun for the students to interact with the airmen, and impressive to see how eager the officers were to help the children.

Mesa Principal Jan Cox said the Valentine project is part of the school’s emphasis on service. The school also is collecting cash donations for the hospital in Balad, Iraq. The money will be used to purchase comfortable clothing for patients.

The project was proposed by Lt. Matthew Speed, with the Company Grade Officers Club, as a community project.
“The school organized the event,” Speed said. “Basically all we did was show up and have fun.”

About 30 airmen participated in the event. Mesa Elementary School students created 250 to 300 Valentine’s cards, Speed said.