Students thank soldiers for sacrifices

Lowell, Mass. (AP) - A 14-year-old student, Frankie Collazo wrote to a military man whom he never met:

"Dear soldier, I greatly appreciate the sacrifices you have made for me. Thanks to you and your fellow soldiers I am living a free life in America. I was born in Puerto Rico. My family moved here to America to live a free life, but that wouldn't have been possible if you hadn't fought in the wars. My friends and I give thanks."

This letter was part of a project that Stoklosa Middle School staff put together last Veterans Day.

Callore's letter and the letters of other students made their way to U.S. soldiers overseas, as well as to veterans hospitalized in medical facilities throughout the state.

Cynthia Robtoy, who is a social worker at Stoklosa Middle School, said students of all grades participated in wide-scale mailing and so did the teachers.

One of the recipients was Master Sgt. Kenneth Tingley, deployed in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. Tingley expressed his gratitude in a letter addressed to the students of Stoklosa Middle School.

"When children take the time to write," Tingley wrote, "it touches our hearts because a lot of us have our own kids waiting at home for our return."

Tingley's unit, the 62 ERS, works in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Most of the men and women in my unit work 12 to 13 hours a day with only one day off each week. While some of us work 13 to 14 hours a day without any days off," wrote Tingley. "The letters boosted our morale and lifted our spirits as we were reminded that America cares and supports our efforts."

Stoklosa Middle School sixth-grade teacher Julie Buchanan, whose brother has served two terms in Afghanistan, started the project.

"Shortly before Veterans Day, Julie came to me expressing her desire to do something special," said Principal Nancy O'Loughlin.

"We did some brainstorming and came up with an idea of writing the letters. Thank-you notes came to us also from the VA hospitals of Lowell, Bedford and West Roxbury."

Tingley mentioned how there were some thoughtful questions raised in the letters.

"One student asked me if the sacrifice is worth it. Yes it is worth it, because I want my children, and one day my grandchildren, to also enjoy the freedom that I have enjoyed in America. And when it comes to America fighting wars in other countries to help protect them, I think about what Abraham Lincoln once said: "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves."'

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