By Staff Sgt. Justin SilversMarch 23, 2015
JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. - For more than six months, children from Mrs. Karen Gonterman's class wrote to their pen pals located half way around the globe. On March 20, the children had an opportunity to meet their pen pals face to face.
Soldiers from the 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) took a trip to Jeffersontown Elementary school to visit the young writers, who wrote to them during their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. During the visit, the Sustainers had lunch with the children, answered questions and took some pictures.
Capt. Victoria Parrish, a human resources officer with the 3rd ESC, was excited to see and talk with the children.
"It's a great experience being able to see our pen pals," said Parrish. "It was such a joy to read their messages while oversees, and now to see them in person, it's just wonderful."
In addition to writing letters, the children also sent the Soldiers Flat Stanley's; paper cutouts resembling the character from the book Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. The Flat Stanley cutouts are used to help facilitate letter-writing by schoolchildren.
While deployed the Soldiers took the time to pose with their Flat Stanley's across Afghanistan. Maj. Jared D. Auchey, public affairs officer with the 3rd ESC, even took his Flat Stanley's with him while he traveled.
"I thought the children would appreciate seeing the Flat Stanley's visit different parts of Afghanistan and fly in a helicopter," said Auchey.
Gonterman started the Flat Stanley pen pal program because she has friends in the military and wanted to do more than just send care packages. She wanted the students and the Soldiers to connect and for it to be an uplifting and positive experience for the students and the Soldiers, especially if the Soldiers were feeling lonely.
Gonterman said that the children had a wide variety of reactions during the correspondence between the Soldiers and the children.
"I had one child in tears of joy; she was literally jumping up and down next to her seat," said Gonterman. "I also had one boy who refused to fold a letter and put it in his folder because he said it was too special to fold."
"This has been such a positive experience for all of the students and something that I plan to continue doing every year," said Gonterman. "This is the first time we've had Soldiers with the pen pal program visit us and It has had such an impact on many of the student's lives."