Another soldier proves to be a fine upstanding citizen...and a wonderful teacher provides a valuable lesson for the kids.
During the 12 months when U.S. Army 1st Lt. Charlie Barrett was stationed in Iraq, most of the letters he received were from children he had never met.Thank you, LT. Barrett. And you too, Mrs. Barrett.
"Other than letters from family members, I really just get letters from kids." Barrett said. "The kids' letters are always the best letters. They say things like, 'Hang my picture in your tank.' "
Nineteen of the children Barrett corresponded with were fourth-graders taught by his aunt, Mary Barrett, at the Ridgeway School in White Plains. Barrett, who served as an executive officer in the 3rd Brigade combat group of the 4th Infantry Division, has been back in the United States for two months. He met these pen pals for the first time yesterday.
Mary Barrett wanted to teach her students about patriotism. She also had to teach them how to write friendly letters. She accomplished both goals in November when all of her students wrote letters introducing themselves to Barrett and asking him questions about the Army and Iraq.
Barrett, 29, replied individually to each letter...
Barrett's enamored pen pals asked him questions that ranged from the hard-hitting, "Did you ever meet a town in Iraq that was unfriendly to you?" (not usually), to the practical, "Did it get really hot in Iraq?" (yes, up to 130 degrees), to the curious, "Did you get to see Saddam?" (no, but he wishes).
There was a lot of anticipation leading up to Barrett's visit, said Luisa Marin, one of Barrett's pen pals. "We'd seen pictures of him, but I thought he might have looked different after being in the hot, burning sun."
Barrett told the class, to much "oohing" and "ahhing," that he and his team of soldiers "captured 500 bad guys." He showed a photomontage made in his brigade that showed the soldiers giving stuffed animals to Iraqi children, and he gave each child a now-obsolete Iraqi 250-dinar bill with deposed president Saddam Hussein's face on it.
The students said that their pen pal made them feel confident that the soldiers want to help.
"I learned that the soldiers are trying to make it better for Iraqis and give them rights," said Jens Sannerud, one of Barrett's pen pals.
"The soldiers in Iraq are trying to be good to people, giving them supplies," agreed his classmate Louisa Martin.