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Patriotic Article
War and Tragedy
By USMC Cpl. Aaron Hostutler

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Students Send Cards of Encouragement
(April 5, 2011)

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Rebecca Walther, a third-grader at Killian Elementary School, uses her creativity to draw a card for Japanese victims of the March 11, 2011 natural disasters.
Rebecca Walther, a third-grader at Killian Elementary School, uses her creativity to draw a card for Japanese victims of the March 11, 2011 natural disasters.
OKINAWA, Japan (March 30, 2011) - “Dear Marine, thank you for helping in Sendai and for helping the Japanese people with rebuilding, giving supplies, first aid, food and water and clothes. I hope you guys help out a lot. I'm glad you left your own home to help out the Japanese.”

This was one of the many messages students at Killian Elementary School here put on cards they made to send to Marines and sailors conducting humanitarian missions on mainland Japan. The students also made cards expressing their empathy for the Japanese citizens who endured the recent natural disasters.

“We thought it was imperative that the kids have some active involvement in helping what they saw on TV, helping the victims. We thought it would be therapeutic to the
children to actually write letters, write their thoughts and emotions,” said Beth McCarthy, a third-grade teacher at the school.
At such a young age, it's difficult to understand what happened or how to feel about it, said McCarthy.

“Having the children make these cards gives us an understanding of how they are feeling and gives them a way to vent as well as feel like they are helping,” she said.

Many of the students have personal ties to the situation. Some had parents – or were even themselves – on Honshu when the disaster struck. Others have parents currently deployed to mainland to assist in ongoing relief efforts.

“Some of the children in the school were in Atsugi for a swim meet,” explained Denise Loftesnes, the III Marine Expeditionary Force family readiness officer. “Some of the kids were in the water when the quake hit. The pool turned into a wave pool. The kids were really scared.”

The school faculty decided having students write their emotions was a good way for them to deal with the tragedy and scope of the disaster.

“We wanted the students to physically do something,” McCarthy said. “Some were personally affected. Many children have a parent who is currently deployed to Japan right now doing relief efforts or family members who experienced the earthquake and experienced trauma. It's very personal to these kids on Okinawa. It's not just what they saw on the news; it's how their lives are actually impacted.”

Many of these children's messages to the Japanese are of hope and encouragement.

“I'm sorry you're suffering,” wrote Caroline Ford, a third-grade student, on one of her cards. “I know about the tsunami and earthquakes and aftershocks. ... It's OK. It's all over. You can be happy now.”

She said she wrote her message because, “I want them to not be afraid.”

To draw the students' attention to positive things, McCarthy had her students write down on a board what U.S. service members were doing to help the Japanese.

“They're bringing huge jugs of water, lots of food, diapers, clothes and supplies because their houses probably fell down,” Ford said. “I want them to keep doing what they're doing because it's great.”

The students began making the cards March 22, and by March 25, they had completed more than 300 cards.

Loftesnes collected the cards and is coordinating their delivery to service members deployed to mainland as well as to Japanese affected by the natural disasters.

Article and photo by USMC Cpl. Aaron Hostutler
III Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs
Copyright 2011

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