USS KEARSARGE, At Sea -- Marines with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge had a special holiday treat when they were granted the opportunity to receive and respond to letters from children back in the United States.
The Marines and sailors received 30 letters from 6th graders at North Asheville Christian School in Asheville, N.C., and 58 letters from Assumption Catholic School in O’Fallon, Mo.
Gunnery Sgt. Bryce Piper, 26th MEU Public Affairs Chief, was surprised to find himself as the link between those embarked and one package of letters.
“My wife’s cousin is a teacher at Assumption Catholic School,” explained Piper. “I had no idea she had sent the letters, so when I received them, we made sign-up sheets and really pushed everyone for participation to ensure every child who took the time to write would get a reply.”
Although every sailor and Marine aboard did not get a letter, volunteers were not hard to come by, as the crew and embarked Marines gladly wrote a response to each student.
“I wasn’t sure how willing the Marines would be to write the children,” said Piper. “They try to keep such a tough exterior, and you can tell some of them were reluctant at first, but in the end it was surprising how many people gave up their time to write letters.” The children's letters were later posted in the Kearsarge main mess deck where all the Marines and sailors could read them.
One of the Marines who sat down to reply was Sgt. Deanna Parker, a Dispatch Chief for the Transportation Detachment with Combat Logistics Battallion 26. She says responding to the thoughtful letters brought back a few childhood memories.
“I remember writing to service members that were deployed when I was younger,” said Parker. “I think how excited I would have been to get a reply back.”
Parker, formerly a teacher before enlisting in the Marine Corps, recalls her students doing similar projects.
“We used to have the students write to military members, and now I am on the receiving end of it, and that’s nice,” said Parker. “These letters are very encouraging, and it will be something that I will keep forever. One thing the girl put in the letter really stood out to me: ‘give someone a hand and you will both climb higher.’ I could just tell the girl who wrote this really put some thought into it.”
“It was a success. When the sailors and Marines turned in their letters, they all seemed very happy and walked away with smiles on their faces,” said Piper. “You could just tell they were happy to get the support.”