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Students make connections overseas

Students from Amanda Bailey’s third grade class at Rock Hill Elementry School say a big hello to Chief Master Sgt. Ray Owens, of Fairborn, as they display the flag he sent them from over seas. Owens and many other soldiers received care packages from Bailey’s class at Thanksgiving.

Although Ray Owens had never met any of the children from Rock Hill Elementary School, his Thanksgiving Day was a little less lonely because of them.

Owens didn’t know it at the time, but back in November, three third grade classes at Rock Hill were preparing care packages and letters to be sent overseas to the soldiers who couldn’t be with their families for the holidays.

Third grade teacher Amanda Bailey had an idea for a social studies project in which the students would each write a letter to a soldier explaining what they would send overseas if they could send anything in the world. These letters would be included in the care packages.

“They had really heartfelt comments,” Bailey said. “Some of them were tearjerkers.”

Braydon Shore said he would send an iPhone so the soldier could call his family. Casey McCormick said he would send a laptop so the soldier could video chat with his family. Both Savanah McGraw and Shelby DePriest said they would send the soldier’s entire family overseas if they could.

The care packages and the letters were sent off. No one was expecting anything in return, especially what came in the mail three months later.

Bailey received a package at the school with a letter from Chief Master Sergeant Ray Owens addressed to the class. It began, “Thank you for the care package. I received it on Thanksgiving Day. I am from Fairborn, Ohio, so it was nice to receive something from my home state. I’d especially like to thank T.J. French and Keilie (Adams) for the personal letters. Your good deed made my day away from family a little less lonely.”

Accompanying the letter was an American flag. Owens, who is a fuels manager in the Air Force, said he sent the flag back to the students as a token of his appreciation for the support they had shown him and the military.

He also explained that the flag was flown in their honor over the Afghanistan and Iraq. Certificates were sent with the flag telling where and when it was flown.

“This flag was flown in your honor (all of you) on two separate missions over the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq,” Owens’ letter continued. “You’ll notice one of the days was New Years. I wanted it flown on New Year’s Day in hopes of marking a new beginning. Each mission we conduct brings us one step closer to peace, and even closer to home.”

Keilie, who was one of the students mentioned in the letter, said she remembers writing her letter.

“I said that I would give him a camera so he could take pictures,” she said. She also said she thought it was a good idea to send pictures of the soldier’s family. “So we can help them if their family is not close. They get lonely without their family.”

Even though T.J., also mentioned in the letter, said he couldn’t remember exactly what he wrote to the soldier, he said he felt good that the soldier enjoyed the letters. He also said supporting the military is important, “so they won’t feel lonely from home.”

As for the flag that Owens sent, T.J. said he hopes the school will display it in their trophy case.

“Each flag is unique in its own way,” Owens said in his letter to the students. “They may look that same, but their stories are different. For instance, no flag in your school took the same journey as this one. “It now belongs to you. Please tell its story.”