Indian Hollow Elementary pupils send letters to Marine stationed in Afghanistan
By Candace Sipos -- email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- Matthew Miller, a Frederick County Public Schools alumnus who is currently serving a seven-month deployment in Afghanistan, received an interesting package on Christmas Day.
He opened it to find it filled to the brim with dozens of cards and letters to him and his regiment from a group of about 40 fourth- and fifth-graders at Indian Hollow Elementary School.
"I am a Winchester native and wish I had the opportunity to do such a wonderful act when I was in school," the Marine sergeant wrote in a email to the school expressing his gratitude. Miller, 23, graduated from James Wood High School in 2007 and went to Indian Hollow for six years.
"Thank you boys and girls and all the cards. It means a lot. Hope you are all learning to your max potential," he wrote.
Miller's mother, Tammy Furr, who has a 14-year-old daughter currently at Frederick County Middle School, contacted the school system in November to ask whether any students would be able to write letters to her son.
She said Friday that she just found out two days prior that the school had even decided to follow through with her request.
"He called on Christmas but I was sleeping," she said. She only gets to speak with him about once every three weeks, and she hasn't heard from him since that missed call. He only has roughly two months left of his deployment.
"I hope they continue to do it," Furr said. "It's a great project. It's great for the military's deployed. ... There's some soldiers wishing they just had extra blankets or some are craving apple butter -- just the simple things they took for granted here."
Furr is used to having family members overseas. She said the total time people in her family have been in the service is 99 years and two months. But her son is the first Marine.
"He says he likes the uniforms in the Marines better," she said.
The roughly 40 students who participated in creating Miller's Christmas gift are part of a relatively new program at the school -- the Kindness Team.
It was created five years ago by school counselor Jeanette Gluszak as an option for students who didn't wish to take chorus. The program has doubled in size, and is becoming much more popular among pupils, Gluszak said.
The team members visit retirement homes and send holiday cards to residents. They collected Yoplait yogurt lids for breast cancer awareness and donated used shoes to children in Africa, just to name a few recent initiatives.
Gluszak hopes the students will get to write to Miller's regiment again.
"I wrote thank you for supporting our country, and you're very brave to go out and help others and do a little act of kindness for everyone," said fifth-grader Jarett Kelchner, 10, who wants to go into the military someday.
Jarett said he would be happy to receive such letters if he was overseas, because he would miss his family and their traditions during the holidays.
"I wrote Happy New Year and Merry Christmas, and I drew like a Christmas tree and presents under it," said fourth-grader Brenden Cook, 9.
Fifth-grader John Greene, 10, said he has learned an important lesson on the Kindness Team.
"Now I know that everybody cares about each other," he said.