CMS students serve troops in Basra

Calera Middle School students preparing packages mailed to troops serving in Basra, Iraq (L-R): Necho Webster, Remi Hernandez, Camryn Hilliard, Hope Fuller and Brianna Walton. (Contributed / Mollie Brown)

By MOLLIE BROWN / Community Columnist

Before leaving school for the holidays, Calera Middle School Principal Brent Copes, faculty and students ensured troops in Basra, Iraq would receive care packages for Christmas.

“A parent in my son’s Cub Scout pack at Westwood gave me names of soldiers who normally don’t receive packages from home,” Copes said. “I talked it over with some of the faculty and decided this would be a wonderful service opportunity, as well as educational.”

Teachers helped students access the military base website in Basra to familiarize themselves with the geography of the land. In addition, students wrote letters to the soldiers that were included in the packages.

Students contributed the money that purchased items for the packages. Items included were: gum, puzzle books, socks, soap, hand sanitizer, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, candy, snack crackers, peanuts and instant coffee packets.

The service project was especially meaningful for fifth-grader Necho Webster. His mom, Renia, is stationed in Japan, serving our country in the Navy.

“I’d like for my mom to be closer to Alabama, but I’m proud she is serving our country,” Webster said. “l got to live with my mom when she was stationed in California, and she has served in Iraq. I’m glad we’re sending packages to some of the troops there.”

When I asked Webster how he feels about being separated from his mom, he responded, “I think happy thoughts and remember the good times we’ve had. Memories live in your heart.”

Brianna Walton was thankful for her opportunity to serve the soldiers. “My grandfather served in a war somewhere, but you’ll have to call my house and ask,” she said.

Walton’s step-father, Brian Copes, said his dad, Marvin Copes, toured Germany while serving in the Army.

Hope Fuller’s great-grandfather was a medic in WWII and was awarded several medals. She felt it heartwarming to send Christmas packages to the troops.

“I don’t know what kind of medals my great-grandfather was given,” Fuller said. “But I know he was in Germany, France and England. We’re doing a good thing for the soldiers. We’re like their family now, they’ll know somebody cares.

“It’s great when you can turn a service-oriented project into history, social studies and letter- writing lessons,” Copes said.

The school address was included in each package in hopes the troops would write back.

Mollie Brown can be reached at