Students send well wishes to troops

15 years ago
By Scott Mitchell Johnson
Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE – Soldiers in Iraq will soon be receiving care packages and letters from sixth-graders at Presque Isle Middle School.
    For the last four years, students in Peggy Kelley’s social studies class have not only written letters, but have brought in items to be sent to the troops.

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    SIXTH-GRADE STUDENTS in Peggy Kelley’s social studies class at Presque Isle Middle School recently sent care packages and letters to soldiers in Iraq. This is the fourth year Kelley has had her students take part in the project. Shown loading Kelley’s car with the many items brought in are, from left: Ben Buckley, Chris Carroll and Ben Nickerson.


    “I had a student who had a relative that was in the service, so four years ago we decided to do an act of kindness,” said Kelley. “It’s since become a tradition in my room.
    “This year, the students brought in chips, granola bars, hard candy, gum, chap stick, tooth paste, tooth brushes, and even diaper wipes,” she said. “It’s so dusty over there, the soldiers use the wipes for their faces.”
    The collection drive began earlier this month, and each student wrote more than one letter.
    “I had 120 letters, plus lots of Christmas cards that I didn’t count,” said Kelley. “Some of the soldiers never get mail. When we send a box with 120 letters, the letters can be shared with others. It helps boost their spirits.”
    One box was mailed to 2nd Lt. Sebastian Engels, a Presque Isle native, who is currently stationed in Iraq, while another box was sent to Sgt. Courtney Blodgett, whose cousin, Brady Sullivan, is one of Kelley’s students.
    “The students will continue to collect items and write letters and make cards to send to our soldiers,” said Kelley, who incorporates the importance of doing things for others, giving, caring, and sharing in her Veterans Day unit.
    “I want students to not only realize why they have Veterans Day off from school, but to appreciate the reason we celebrate,” she said. “They feel intrinsic satisfaction when writing their letters and making cards, and then we get mail back from some of the soldiers, I share those letters in class. It’s almost like a pen pal type relationship.”
    Students Bridgette Carrier and Alexis Bell enjoyed helping brighten the soldiers’ day.
    “I thought it was really cool,” said Carrier. “I wrote about myself a little bit, I asked some questions, and I told them that they were respected and honored. I brought in some candy and gum for the soldiers.”
    “I told the soldier about myself and I let them know that we thank them for what they do,” said Bell. “I brought in candy, too.”
    The father of one of the girls’ classmates, Kaleb Donovan, will be receiving a box sent by the students, as well.
    “We’re sending a box to him,” Carrier said, “and he’ll share with his troop. It feels good to do something nice for Kaleb and his dad.”
    Honoring our servicemen and women is something that Kelley takes to heart as she has family members who are in the military.
    “I have a sister, Linda Self, who is a Lt. Col. in the reserves,” she said, “and my other sister, Tammy Garrard, is married to an Apache helicopter pilot. I teach respect and the importance of our red, white and blue, and its one of the students’ sixth-grade memories.”
    Kelley sends out care packages three times each school year.
    “I generally do it in November, February and May,” she said, “and it’s about 70 pounds of items each time. The school helps with postage, and it’s just a positive project we do each year.”
    If anyone has a relative whom they would like to receive mail, they can contact Kelley and her students at


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    ARMY SGT. PAUL TORMEY of Bangor spoke to students in Peggy Kelley’s sixth-grade class at Presque Isle Middle School recently as part of their Veterans Day unit. Tormey served in Iraq and was in charge of the ammunition count while there. Tormey said, “The temperatures inside the building with the grenades and ammo was over 120 degrees, which was scary.” Tormey showed the students a Power Point presentation, which included many photos of his tour in Iraq. A few of the pictures were of Saddam Hussein’s palaces that American troops took over, while other photos were of trucks, tanks and tents. Pictured above, Tormey accepts a gift from sixth-grader Kaleb Donovan on behalf of his fellow students. Donovan’s father is currently in Iraq, and will receive one of the large boxes of items collected by the students. Donovan is a member of the Young Marines and wore his uniform on the day of Tormey’s visit.