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Gateway School District students send long-distance thank-yous

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007

Fourth-graders at Gateway School District's Moss Side Elementary School are writing letters to troops overseas in hopes of raising their spirits during the holiday season.

The project at the Monroeville school was started by Jean Connors, a teacher who previously had worked on similar programs through her church, Mother of Sorrows, and American Legion Gold Star Post 820 in Monroeville.

The 15 students' letters are to be sent with care packages to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team stationed in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

The youngsters express hope that the soldiers will be able to get home to their families, and they thank the troops for their service.

Many of them asked personal questions about the soldiers.

"I wanted to know if they had any children or pets, or if they're married," said Madison Moore.

"The types of uniforms they have to wear and the body armor they have to use" raised Jasmine Howard's curiosity.

"If he keeps any favorite memories, like pictures he puts under his pillow," said Marriana Barraso about her questions.

Writing to military members overseas is nothing new for Connors' teaching aide, Dan Pomposelli, a Point Park University student.

He wrote to a soldier when he was 6 years old. That soldier, Sgt. Daryl Kenney of 588th Engineer Battalion, was stationed in the Middle East as part of Operation Desert Storm after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

"When he responded, I didn't really think much about it, but my parents did," Pomposelli said.

Kenney wrote back, encouraging Pomposelli to do well in his life, help his parents and make them proud.

It wasn't until after the Gulf War that Pomposelli again got in contact with Kenney, who now works in Indiana as director of a construction project management firm.

The students hope to get responses to their letters, but all said they wanted to thank the soldiers.

"Thank you for defending our country and protecting our freedoms. Thank you for going far away from your families to fight for other people's freedom," wrote Dominic Contestable.

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