Dutch Meyer stands next to his three pen pals, Cash Haeder, Abigail Nickels and Gianni Clemente, fifth-graders of Wolsey-Wessington school. In the next photo is Lowell Prentice, of Wessington, surrounded by his three fifth-grade pen pals, Samantha Lloyd, Caleb Liebmow and Tanner Horn. PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED
HURON — Christmas is extra special this year for six local veterans whose homes were graced by students yearning to make a difference in the lives of others.
Before their Christmas vacation started, 18 fifth-graders from Wolsey-Wessington school boarded a bus and set out on a trip with the mission of spreading glad tidings and giving a special gift to each local hero.
The students were alive with the Christmas spirit as they donned Santa hats, knocked on doors and sang “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” to the six veterans.
It all started last month, at the Wolsey-Wessington Veterans Day Assembly on Nov. 12. There the students met each veteran for the first time and presented them with flowers and popcorn.
In return, the vets were asked to write down when they served, which branch, and several of their memories to give to the class to read.
“The kids had been learning about World War II in November,” said fifth-grade teacher Sandi Ransom. “They wanted to know more about what it means to be a veteran.”
Many pictures were taken of the students interacting with the vets, and Ransom was later able to locate some pictures of the men in their younger days.
The students stepped in, becoming pen pals and writing to the veterans.
Later, the students had the idea of the memory books, and of presenting them as Christmas gifts. “The more we talked about it, the more the kids really wanted to take it a step further and thank them for all they’ve done,” said Ransom.
Veterans honored included Lowell Prentice of Wessington; Pete Wuestewald of Wessington; Marvin Matthews of Wessington; Victor Lee Woodruff of Wolsey; Albert Whitlatch of Wolsey; and Robert “Dutch” Meyer of Huron.
Ransom said she had no idea the fifth graders would write such heartfelt letters.
Jocelynn Lucus wrote to Matthews, “Your hat was cool with all of your pins on it. You must have done a lot of things in the Army.” Lizzi Brandt wrote to Matthews, “I hope I can see you next year at the Veterans Day Program, or just around town.”
Gianni Clemente wrote to Meyer, “I wanted to know what it was like in World War II. I’m probably going to join the Army when I grow up.”
“The whole experience just floored me,” said Meyer. “I had no idea they were coming,” he said. “I saw the school bus outside the window and wondered what was going on.”
When the bus pulled up to Prentice’s house in Wessington, he was surprised how many kids filed out. “I hardly had room in the house for all of them,” he said, laughing. “That’s about the first time I’ve ever had that happen,” he said.
Ransom said her students thoroughly enjoyed themselves on their visits, and they started their Christmas vacation in bright spirits. “I want my students to remember this experience for years to come,” she said. “This has helped them learn how to always look for the good in others. That’s part of what Christmas is really about.”For the complete article see the 12-23-2012 issue.
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