MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT N.C. --
Hand-crafted Santa hats and reindeer ears sat atop children’s heads as they walked into the Havelock Elementary School gymnasium, Dec. 3. Immediate smiles and excitement could be seen as the children spotted the four Marines dressed sharply in their uniforms.
Kindergarteners through second-graders celebrated the importance of giving during the holiday season with a semester project solely dedicated to deployed Marines of two Cherry Point units – Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 3 and Marine Attack Squadron 542.
After weeks of filling packages with holiday decorations, hand-made cards, pictures and letters, students presented gifts to family readiness officers Ed Price with VMAQ-3 and Rachael Banton with VMA-542. Students also recorded Christmas music on CDs to send to the troops. Parents and staff donated movies, magazines and books to include in the Christmas packages. This year is the third year Havelock Elementary School has voluntarily put together the Christmas project.
“The goal was to create a better connection between the military and the school,” said Lucy Bond, a kindergarten teacher at Havelock Elementary School. “We want to do as much as we can for the Marines who are away during the holidays because we have so many families affected by deployments. We want to give them the support they need and deserve.”
During the celebration, members of Marine Corps Family Team Building presented a puppet show to help children cope and understand why their family member is deployed.
“Many of the students in Havelock are military, so I think it’s important for them to understand what goes on in the area they live,” said Andrea C. Sharples, the readiness and deployment support trainer with Family Team Building. “We demonstrate a puppet show that talks about deployment so it helps the child who is part of a military family and to also show non-military children what their fellow students are going through.”
Havelock Elementary students not only learned about deployments, but they also learned another aspect of some Marines’ jobs.
Four Marine color guardsmen with the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training marched and presented the colors in the gymnasium as students pronounced the Pledge of Allegiance. The CNATT commanding officer then addressed the students, thanking them for what they did for his fellow Marines.
“It’s Christmas season, and what the children are doing for these men and women overseas is a great thing,” said Lt. Col. Paul M. Melchior, commanding officer of CNATT. “We have Marines, Sailors and service members deployed to Afghanistan fighting for the men and women who can’t fight for themselves.”
Marines and family readiness officers visited the school prior to the celebration and educated the children about the Marine Corps and deployments. Sgt. Avery Washington II, an instructor of CNATT, volunteered to read books to the students for the second year in a row.
“Whenever we come out to the school, it always seems to put a smile on the children’s faces,” said Washington from Bloomfield, Conn. “I just want to help in any way possible to make sure that our mark is made. I’ve had children come up to me a year later telling me they remember when I read to their school. When that happens, it just leaves you with the feeling that you’re doing the right thing.”