Dutchman Creek Middle School sits at the north end of Rock Hill’s Museum Road. At the south end is the National Guard Armory.
But the armory has few soldiers in it these days – more than 160 of them are in Afghanistan.
Eastern Afghanistan is a dusty, rocky, place. It looks like Mars with an Army base on it.
“Dirty and pretty nasty” said a 12-year-old seventh-grader named Morgan Ramsey. “They do route clearance. That is making the roads safe and getting rid of the bombs on the roads. It is a very dangerous job.”
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All this from a 12-year-old kid whose father already has missed three years of her life.
“I know because my dad had to go there. Twice. I was 7 years old the first time he went to the war. Then he went back when I was 10.”
So students such as Morgan, whose father had been deployed with some of these same area soldiers on an earlier mission, decided to collect supplies to send to the troops.
With some guidance from teacher Jane Page and others, the students decided that the soldiers they had grown used to seeing train at the armory down the street should get baby wipes and lotion and soap – and crackers and gum and all kinds of great stuff that can’t be found sometimes in a country such as Afghanistan where there is no convenience, much less a convenience store.
A family friend of Morgan Ramsey, a 19-year-old female soldier, is one of the 14 women deployed with the Army National Guard 178th Combat Engineers.
“They need everything over there, so we just wanted to help,” said Morgan. “She’s like my big sister. I just want her to be safe and to have some stuff that she can’t get over there.”
The school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter and First Ladies Club for girls came up with the idea to collect the stuff near the school entrance. A sign was put up, boxes made. The service project was dubbed: “10 Days of Caring.”
One of the wives of the deployed soldiers who coordinated another care package drive last week, Leanne Pressley, was “floored” by the generous gesture.
“Awesome,” Pressley said. “The kids are the greatest.”
The school cared so much that the project, first scheduled to end today, will go on until Tuesday.
“The kids were so excited that they wanted another weekend to bring in more to send to the soldiers,” said Page, who guides the two service clubs.
Several classes took time out of lunch and free periods to make thank-you cards to send to the troops. And those cards are enough to melt even the hardest hearts. They feature hand-drawn American flags and hearts and words that can only come from the hearts of young people:
“Thank you for sacrificing for me.”
“Please be safe and come home.” “You are my heroes.”
All those cards are being packed into boxes for shipment to Afghanistan, with the hope that all of the stuff arrives by Thanksgiving. A couple of the kids who helped – sixth-graders Diya Patel and Erin O’Rourke – were asked why they wanted to send stuff to the soldiers from down the street.
These are no politicians. They are kids – meaning that they are great and they wear their huge hearts right out there on their sleeves.
“If they are helping our country and helping in Afghanistan, we can help them,” said Diya.
“We just care about them,” said Erin. “They are so far from home.”
Those girls who cared enough to give are just 11 years old.