Students pay respects to soldiers returning from Afghanistan

“Thank you” is an easy and simple thing to say.

But for students at St. Thomas More Catholic School, it means appreciation for those who protected them and gave them the chance to grow up in peace.

Students in St.Thomas More Catholic School wrote cards and letters to
the Second World War veterans and wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan. Seven of them are reading a petition during a liturgy.

More than 300 elementary students at St. Thomas More wrote cards and letters to veterans from the Second World War and the injured soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

The cards and letters were delivered to Sunnybrook Hospital on Remembrance Day.

“My father-in-law fought in the Second World War,” said Eva Henn, a learning disabled teacher who came up with the idea. “He has been in the Sunnybrook hospital for a few years.

“Last year on Remembrance Day, I went to the ceremony and I saw a lot of young people returning from Afghanistan with serious injuries there.”

Henn was deeply shocked by these young heroes because she has two sons, ages 28 and 30.

“Here are these wounded young people, who can be my sons, and I thought we’ve got to do something as a school,” she said. “Our school is very generous that way. Our kids can make some cards and write letters to them.

“So when I came back, I mentioned this to Mrs. Chambers.”

School principal Paula Chambers agreed and asked Henn to make some contact with the hospital.

“[People who worked in] the hospital said that they would put her in touch with somebody who would be able to collect those letters and make sure that they went to the major hospital [in Halifax] where the Afghan wounded were taken,” Chambers said.

One year later, the wish to show some appreciation to the soldiers was fulfilled. Not only will these letters and cards be seen by the veterans in Sunnybrook hospital, but they will also be sent to soldiers returning from Afghanistan in Halifax as well.

“The letters are at Sunnybrook this morning,” Chambers said. “They will be there for the Remembrance Day, and then they are going with Brig.-Gen. Collins and he is taking them to the Landord Forces Base in Halifax, that’s where most of the wounded soldiers from Afghanistan are being treated.”

Chambers said a lot of students did really good jobs because they fully understand and appreciate what the veterans have done for people.

“For the older students, writing a letter is part of their curriculum,” she said “But when the students have a real reason for writing a letter and they know it’s going to a real person, it’s not an academic exercise, it’s a real communication.

“Some of them wrote poems, they did beautiful works because they were moved by our soldiers.”

Samira Agrippa, who is a grade eight student, said she would keep doing this every year and she was happy to spread the message out to all her friends and family.

“They just gave up and sacrificed everything and then to come back and have nothing left,” she said. “They need people to care for them, praying for them and giving them hope.”

Chambers said she believes even the young students in senior kindergarten had a basic understanding of what they were doing.

“The really young children, they know what it is like when their pets died,” she said. “So they know how sad it must be to lose someone incredibly close to you. They would understand at the level they are capable to understand.

“They understand if somebody is getting hurt while protecting them, they know it’s time to stop playing and be respectful.”