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THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan
THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan
Students at P.S. 130 swarmed the two military members who paid a visit to their Bayside school.

Students at a local Bayside elementary school have not forgotten their troops.

Youngsters at P.S. 130 have written more than 250 letters and collected some 180 items, along with 59 pounds of candy, to send to deployed military men and women as part of Operation Gratitude — a nonprofit, volunteer group’s mission to assemble and ship care packages to soldiers serving overseas.

“When you’re on a long deployment and you get some letters and cookies, it means a lot,” said Staff Sergeant Clayton Kramer. “When you’re in a rural part of the world, it’s easy to feel forgotten. When you see a care package show up from a school, it lets you know that what you’re doing means something to people.”

Kramer, a veteran of the United States Air Force and California Air National Guard, paid a visit to the tiny benefactors during a school assembly on November 10 to explain his role in protecting the country. He was joined by retired Marine Sergeant Matthew Engelhardt, who dumped out his rucksack and invited kids to test out the military equipment.

“It’s wonderful to educate the kids and explain to them what we do,” said Engelhardt, who served for eight years. “It’s wonderful to get letters out there, knowing that the kids appreciate what you do.”

This is the school’s second year participating, said Assistant Principal Laurie Careddu. Students in pre-kindergarten through third grade collected toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste and candy, wrote letters and decorated banners for the troops.

Kramer served in the Air Force as an aerospace maintenance crew chief and a signals analyst before joining the 129th Rescue Wing. Engelhardt was deployed twice to Iraq and had two tours in Okinawa, Japan.

The pair, who was showered with letters of thanks upon their drop-by, said the gratitude was touching.

“It actually kind of brings a tear to the corner of your eye,” Kramer said.

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