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Megan Turak, Military Family Network News
PITTSBURGH, PA - December 16, 2012 Moon Area High School students displayed a sophisticated and insightful understanding of community and citizenship when they enthusiastically responded to a patriotic call, initiated by Luis Trevino, President of Military Family Network™ and coordinated by Moon Area High School Social Studies Department Chairman, Jason Ferri, to support Soldiers deployed to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sharana for the holidays. The students, from Moon Area High School social studies classes, rallied in the spirit of the season to write letters, create artful banners, decorate and adorn pillows with thoughtful expressions and collected personal comfort items for the Soldiers to boost morale during the FOB Sharana Army Education Center's holiday party.
In November, Military Family Network™ received an email from Education Services Officer, Mark Mazarella, that the Army Education Center on FOB Sharana would be hosting a holiday party for the Soldiers stationed there in December. The Army Education Center provides ongoing support for Soldiers who wish to voluntarily continue their educational goals and aspirations by offering test preparation, college entrance exams and online college courses.
"The soldiers here are all great young Americans and many are taking on-line college courses while deployed. We've also administered several SAT tests, ACTs, CLEP/DSSTs, and GRE's!" emailed Mr. Mazarella.
Since FOB Sharana is in central-eastern Afghanistan, in the Paktika Province and is about 8,000' feet in elevation, the climate, especially in winter, can present disruptions to reliable supply lines making party-planning challenging.
Mr. Mazarella explains, "While the larger FOBs have some of the comforts of home like a Pizza Hut or McDonalds, we do not have any of that here at Sharana. We have a decent "mess hall", but it gets old and is "hit and miss"…we've been without milk for about ten days now."
Military Family Network immediately reached out to its friends and partners in the community, like Mr. Ferri, to engage their support. Groups and individuals were offered suggestions, but each was afforded the opportunity to express themselves as they wished.
After one email from Mr. Mazarella was shared with the students, its message resonated deeply.
In it, Mr. Mazarella described an instance where he was asking Soldiers who had just returned from the field about what types of items they needed.
His email read: "And as I thanked them and was leaving the "chow hall," one of the Soldiers came over and said "All that stuff is great, Sir,--and we definitely need it---but the thing we love most out there is getting letters…and we need to be able to write back.""
After receiving hundreds of letters from the students expressing respect, care, concern, prayers, appreciation and admiration for the Soldiers, Mr. Trevino exclaimed, "This is awesome! We are so proud of these young men and women who took time from their busy lives to honor our nation's warriors. The Soldiers are going to love this!"
"It was wonderful to see our students embrace the idea of giving back to those who put their lives on the line for all of us," said Mr. Ferri. "Our students wrote very touching sentiments expressing their appreciation for the hard work and sacrifice of our military."
Already the FOB Sharana Army Education Center's Facebook Facebook page has recognized the students with "The most unique "gift" award...awesome!!!" for their colorful and thoughtful pillows!
As the gifts begin to arrive and it starts to look more like the festivities of home, Mr. Mazarella writes: "You know, there's a lot wrong with our country right now, but one thing we can be very proud of is the enduring generosity of the American people!"