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Dent Letters Cheer Troops
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An effort spearheaded by 11th District Congressman Jerry McNerney prompted some Dent Elementary students to put their artistic skills to work, drawing, designing and writing holiday cards to injured servicemen and women recuperating in stateside hospitals.

McNerney earlier asked 11th district residents to participate in his "Holiday Cards for Our Troops" program and several classrooms at Dent joined the project.

Overseeing the local participation was school district counselor Ray Roncale.

"It was short notice, we only had one week to respond," Roncale said of getting word about the effort, noting that he didn't have time to include outlying elementary schools in the project this year. But several first grade classes, a kindergarten class and some fifth grade students all put pen, crayon and marker to paper to design the cards. As much 'get well' cards as holiday greetings, McNerney spokesman Andy Stone said the goal was to deliver the cards to soldiers recovering from injuries sustained in battle, those that will be away from their families for the holidays.

"They're handmade cards," Stone said of the hundreds that were mailed in to the Washington, D.C. office for McNerney to deliver.

Mcnerney distributed the cards to soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; sailors and marines at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD; and to National Guard and Reserve soldiers at Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in Dublin.

"The holiday season can be a difficult time of year for those who serve our country in uniform, particularly those who have returned from battle injured," McNerney said. "Some are separated from family, friends, and the traditions that have brought comfort and joy throughout the years and all of them are faced with a life forever changed by their service to our nation. Thoughtful words of encouragement and support from the great people of the 11th district can do a lot to boost the morale of our brave men and women."

Roncale said the first grade teaching team of Mrs. Harp, Mrs. Nelson, Mrs. Pendleton, Mrs. Moret, Mrs. Sand and Mrs. Clark at Dent all had students participating, along with kindergarten students in Mrs. Brayton-John's class. Fifth graders from Ms. Hillstrom's class and Mr. Casazza's class also designed cards and the bilingual class taught by Mrs. Mendoza did cards in Spanish.

"Each class did their own and we had probably over 200 students participating," Roncale said. "We had never done it before. Some of them had paint, glitter, they were pretty intense. The older kids actually wrote more messages, thanking the soldiers for fighting for us, they were very touching."

Stone said nearly 800 cards altogether came in from the 11th Congressional District, with schools, community groups and private citizens contributing to the effort to spread holiday cheer and words of encouragement to injured service personnel.