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Patriotic Article
Noble Efforts

By Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Hickok

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HERAT, Afghanistan (3/27/2011) – When deployed soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors are told people back home are thinking of them and praying for them, it is encouraging. When people back home send hundreds of paper hearts chained together, covered with hand written notes and drawings, a deeper chord is struck.
1st Lt. David Roland from Anniston Ala., stationed at Camp Arena in Herat province, holds up part of a chain of more than 500 paper hearts with messages to troops serving in Afghanistan on March 23, 2011. The hearts were sent by students and teachers from Anthony Burns Elementary School in Stafford, Va., to tell the troops how much they are appreciated and to thank them for their service.
1st Lt. David Roland from Anniston Ala., stationed at Camp Arena in Herat province, holds up part of a chain of more than 500 paper hearts with messages to troops serving in Afghanistan on March 23, 2011. The hearts were sent by students and teachers from Anthony Burns Elementary School in Stafford, Va., to tell the troops how much they are appreciated and to thank them for their service.
 That is what students and teachers from Anthony Burns Elementary School in Stafford, Va., did for coalition forces stationed at Camp Arena, Herat on Mar. 23, 2011.

The response from the troops was overwhelming.

“I was taken aback. This was amazing,” said Air Force Maj. David Johnson, Pentagon Air Staff, stationed at Camp Arena.

Johnson has two girls attending Anthony Burns Elementary.

Johnson sees the communication as a good opportunity for kids to learn about other countries and to see what the military is accomplishing.
 
“I have been emailing the school a couple times a month saying how we are doing and I sent them a couple pictures,” said Johnson.
The chain of hearts was a surprise though.

One of his daughters hinted to Johnson the school was doing something special but he had no idea what they were planning. The hearts were unboxed and spread out along the flag poles at Camp Arena.

It took eight people to hold up all of the hearts.

“It made me feel great to be an American,” said Air Force Capt. Ryan Clark, 69th Bomb Squadron from Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

Air Force Capt. Cyndi Eslingar, 81st Range Control from Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Fla., read the messages as she helped put up the chain.

The hearts had simple messages such as "Come home safe" and "We appreciate what you are doing" as well as "You rock our world!" and "Happy trails."

“That the whole school made hearts for us was awesome,” said Eslingar.

Some of the notes written on the hearts mentioned specific service members.

“We found a couple hearts that were for parents serving in Camp Arena that said ‘Miss you daddy',” Eslingar said.

Other hearts mentioned troops serving at different bases.

“One heart was for a particular soldier. We pulled it off and are going to try to find him,” said Eslingar.

Johnson said he was heartened by the thoughtfulness of the students and teachers at Anthony Burns Elementary.

“It was encouraging to know that they were thinking of us,” he said.
By Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Hickok
Navy Visual News Service
Copyright 2011

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