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Minnesota National Guard
Letters from home

etters from home
County News/Zach Hacker
Waseca junior Hannah Flor is presented the Chief's Coin, a special military award for a job well done, by Chief Master Sergeant Steve Campos of the Minnesota Air and Army National Guard Friday

WASECA — Spending the holidays away from family and friends is no doubt one of the most difficult parts of being amongst the 13,000 men and women serving in the Minnesota National Guard

Friday, students in Barb Kunz’s Youth Service and Leadership class at Waseca High School were recognized by the Minnesota National Guard, United States Postal Service and the American Legion for doing their part in making the holidays a little brighter for those stuck overseas for the holidays

Of 30 entities taking part in the USPS’s “Shop, Ship, and Share” program this year, the YSL class in Waseca was the only one outside of the Twin Cities metro The program helps collect letters and care packages to be sent to servicemen and women serving in the Minnesota National Guard

“It started with the Veterans’ Day program,” Kunz said, referring to another project by the class, making blankets for veterans “One of my purposes with that was to instill in them pride in our country and appreciation for people that have fought for our freedom I come from a family that’s military-minded so I have that but I feel like kids, unless they come from a military family, really miss that part”

The idea to take part in Ship, Shop, and Share was brought to the class from Waseca junior Hannah Flor Chief Master Sergeant Steve Campos of the Minnesota Air and Army National Guard had become acquainted with Flor through working together at the Minnesota National Guard Youth Camp over the summer, a camp for 10-through-12-year-olds whos parents are members of the Minnesota National Guard, many of whom are deployed

Kunz enlisted the help of five teachers throughout the district to have their students help collect items to be put into care packages and sent overseas She then asked her class of juniors and seniors to write letters to be sent along with the packages

“The letters were precious,” Kunz said “The kids said, ‘What do I write?’ I said, ‘Tell them about you They’re not getting home for the holidays so they want to know what you’re doing and what it’s like here in Minnesota Just write It doesn’t matter what you say It’s more that you’re thinking about them while they’re away’  Hannah took it from us and got it all together and shipped it She did an awesome job”

For their efforts in helping with the program, the entire class was presented with a certificate and a plaque from the USPS on Friday afternoon Campos said the importance of getting these packages is “immeasurable” for those serving

“When you consider you’re in the middle of the desert, nothing around for miles and miles, you might get a mail call here and there and you get this box and you have no idea where it’s coming from,” he said “You open it and get these amazing letters and items from kids like in Waseca They’ve told me it brings tears to their eyes”

The students were shown their good deed hadn’t gone unnoticed when they got letters back from some of those who had received the letters and packages The 407th Air Expeditionary Group of Ali Base in Iraq sent them photos of their unit along with a letter thanking them They also received a postcard from the United States Air Force

Kunz said getting feedback made the students feel good about what they’d done

“The kids thought, ‘Wow My letters went to real people who then took the time to write back to me,”’ she said “It really made it so special and so real to them that they really made a difference in somebody’s life”

Along with the awards given to the entire class Friday, Flor was given special recognition for her involvement in getting the project up and running in Waseca Campos presented her with a Chief’s Coin, a special award given by the military for a job well done

After the presentation, Campos said giving Flor that honor was a pleasure

“I wanted to do a special presentation for Hannah because of everything that she’s done,” he said “There’s a lot to do in organizing, planning and getting an event off and running To give her a Chief’s Coin is a no-brainer to me because it exemplifies what she really is: Somebody that is a hard-worker and wants to help and bring the community together She’s a collaborator also and a good liason”

Flor was nearly lost for words when trying to describe what it meant for her to receive the award

“It means a lot,” she said “It makes me very proud I didn’t need the coin or anything I’m just very proud that I got it It’s a surprise I’m dumbfounded”

Flor said she understands what the servicemen and women were going through being separated from their families over the holidays with her dad, Tim Flor, having served She said knowing that made her want to do something to help make the season better for those serving

“We just wanted to give back to them and give them something for Christmas, showing them that we care and we’re supporting them,” she said “They do so much for us and we do so little for them I wanted to do something for them for everything that they do for us”

Posted: Friday, January 21, 2011 6:32 pm

Zach Hacker is the managing editor for the Waseca County News Reach him at 837-5447

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