Thanks to students at Frontier Elementary School, the holidays should be a little brighter for an elite U.S. Army Special Forces unit stationed in Afghanistan.
The students, representing Tami Fischer's fourth-grade and Mimi Dailey's kindergarten classes, spent last week wrapping gifts that will soon be sent to the HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) Army unit secretly located somewhere in Afghanistan.
The gifts include a wide variety of items that were donated by the parents of the children.
"(The parents) sent in bags and bags of all types of things that might be needed, or wanted, by the soldiers," Dailey said. Her brother-in-law, Capt. Terri Butcher, is among the soldiers in the unit.
Dailey and Fischer agreed that collecting the gift items and wrapping them had become a huge source of pride among the youngsters.
"It is something they are really proud of and want to do, Dailey said. Once the gifts are wrapped and ready, UPS has agreed to donate shipping costs for 100 pounds.
Because the HALO unit is stationed in a secret location, Dailey expects the gifts will have to be parachuted or dropped to the soldiers.
Among the items bound for Afghanistan is a fictional character known as Flat Stanley. He is no stranger to the men of HALO.
Last year, while HALO was stationed near Olympia, Wash., Dailey's students sent Flat Stanley to Butcher and asked that he be taken skydiving.
The Army's official account of the incident was later sent back to the class.
"When the helicopter reached 14,000 feet, the rear ramp was lowered and Flat Stanley moved with Capt. Butcher to the edge of the ramp. On the jumpmaster's signal, Flat Stanley and Capt. Butcher jumped from the aircraft."
The fictional character Flat Stanley was once an average boy who was flattened by a falling bulletin board. Life quickly changed for Flat Stanley who now measures four feet tall, one foot wide and a half inch thick.
After reading "Flat Stanley," last year, Fisher's class drafted letters to send to friends and relatives including the HALO unit.
Accompanying the students' letters were large pictures of Flat Stanley that each student had colored, along with a letter from Fischer explaining what was going on. The idea was to get the recipients to write back and send photos, and other items representative of their locales.
"It's a real popular book, and it's an activity other classes do as well," Fischer said. "We even get Flat Stanleys in the mail from other schools."
As responses to the mailings come in, they are posted on a big U.S. map on the classroom wall.
"That way we get some geography as well as writing and reading," Fischer said.
Other gifts sent to the HALO soldiers were disposable cameras. The students have asked the Special Forces unit to take pictures of Flat Stanley's adventures in Afghanistan.
"It should be so neat when we get those pictures back," Dailey said.