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Adopt-a-Platoon Encourages Students to Write Letters to Soldiers Abroad

Every Monday night, a group of about 50 students trickle into Susie’s to write letters for American soldiers stationed overseas.

“[In Adopt-a-Platoon,] we write letters to servicemen and women serving overseas… I try to emphasize to people that the purpose is to keep it serious but also to brighten someone’s day,” said Julia Boyd ’16, a Student Coordinator of Adopt-a-Platoon.

After receiving an assignment of a specific platoon from the national organization “Adopt-a-Platoon” at the beginning of the school year, the club sends weekly letters to the soldiers, building a rapport between the club and their assigned platoon. This year, members have been sending letters to a platoon of soldiers stationed in Kuwait.

“It’s kind of a nice time to take from your homework load to just reflect on things you’re grateful for,” said Emma Timken ’18, a participant in Adopt-a-Platoon. “It really puts things into perspective because you’re writing to these people who are fighting for our country and really putting their lives on the line.”

Starting each letter with “Dear Soldier,” students are free to write about a variety of topics, ranging from recent sports games to favorite movies. Each week, there is a theme that students are encouraged to write about in their letters.

While careful to avoid including their private information in their letters, students said they often go into detail about their everyday lives as American high schoolers, hoping to paint a vivid image of their homes for the soldiers abroad.

Students often decorate their letters with colorful drawings and designs, making their letters more exciting and engaging.

“We usually have colorful markers and paper, so I encourage people to use lots of different colors and decorate the papers… Our themes can be favorite movies, what’s going on [during their days or] favorite thing about winter,” said Boyd.

In the past, the club has sent care packages packed with Twizzlers, shaving cream, razors, soap, lotion, beef jerky and objects that may otherwise be inaccessible in the country in which their platoon is stationed.

Participants gain a deeper connection with the soldiers and, as the year progresses, writing to them becomes akin to sending messages to long-lost relatives, said Boyd. She described how impressed she was with the responsibility that members have assumed in order to ensure the continued relationship with the soldiers.

“We had such good attendance last term. A lot of [the participants] will always come regularly and, if they can’t, I’ll always be getting emails [asking if they could] actually make it up even in their spare time, even outside of the official Adopt-a-Platoon time,” said Boyd.

Participants expressed that taking the effort to write the each letters each week is worth it—despite the fact that they don’t expect any response—as the letters have the potential to make a huge difference to a soldier’s day.

“You don’t realize how much one letter can really impact a soldier’s day,” said Timken. “I know that they’re not going to respond, but I think at the same time, just knowing that they’ll read it and know that someone cares about them [is important].”

“It’s hard to reach soldiers any other way… I think that sending letters and sending care packages is helpful and will boost their morale… It makes a difference for each soldier that does get a letter,” said BrianPaul Robert ’16, a four-year member of the program.

Two years ago, however, the soldiers surprised the students by writing a thank-you note to each one of them.

“Because we don’t ever get to meet these people [and] we don’t usually hear from them, [having this] confirmation that they [have been] receiving [our letters] was really special to me,” said Boyd.

A fresh group of 29 volunteers joined the club on Monday. With an expanding group, Boyd said that she hopes to incorporate different activities into the program, such as listening to radio recordings of interview with veterans and showing documentaries, so that the program extends beyond simple letter writing.

Jan 15, 2016