Tulsa students supporting soldiers in Iraq

Friday, December 9th 2005, 10:20 am
By: News On 6

A Tulsa school is spreading holiday cheer all the way to Iraq. Each classroom at Eisenhower Elementary is adopting a soldier.

News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin caught up with the kids just before they sent off their latest piece of home to the troops. “Dear Ana, Merry Christmas! Yesterday we didn't have school because it was snowing." Rosa Benavides’ 3rd graders are hard at work on a project from the heart.

"We want to wish them a Merry Christmas. Because they're not with their families and they miss their families."

Rosa Benavides: "this teaches, I believe, patriotism for the kids and just having that connection knowing you know that there's something beyond our borders of Oklahoma."

For the kids, the tradeoff is well worth their efforts. They hear first hand from the soldiers about children their own age in Iraq and receive e-mails thanking them for their letters. "We like to do nice things for the soldiers because sometimes they are struggling there. They don't get to see their families a lot, and they don't see a lot of people they know."

But for Señora Benavides this is more than just a classroom exercise, the soldier the kids are writing to is her sister. "We're very close, we're very close. We used to talk to each other every day on the phone, especially on Sundays when we'd have our cup of coffee." Now that shared cup is farther away than ever, but the bond between the two is just as strong. Rosa Benavides: "I just miss her terribly.”

Major Ana Christian leads a company of 34 soldiers helping Iraqi villages build schools and water sources. Benavides says it's a chance for her students to hear about the good things US troops are doing overseas. "It's just very special to me that these kids are doing this. It supports my sister and her soldiers and makes them feel good, and it has that home connection, gives them a little bit of home."

Area businesses like Wal-Mart and Starbucks, are adding to the kids' gift boxes for the soldiers. The unit is due home in June.

Eisenhower teachers hope one day, they can start a pen pal program with Iraqi children.