Heart to heart: salutations for soldiers

Published 4:36 pm Monday, March 14, 2011

(L-R) Teacher Margaret Powell, Breanna White, Erin Melah, Edward Dabbs, Abby Gay and Heaven Anderson. (Contributed)

By MOLLIE BROWN / Community Columnist

If home is where the heart is, then Calera Middle School teacher Margaret Powell is not only a resident of Alabama, but also California, three Middle Eastern countries and one country in Europe.

Powell, whose family history is rich in military service, and her sixth-grade English classes wrote thank you letters to troops stationed in California, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq and Germany.

“Most of my family served in the military, so I have a big heart for soldiers,” Powell said.

“My dad, a Marine, was awarded the Purple Heart in the Iwa Jima invasion. Mom was a navy nurse during World War II, and my husband David served in the Navy. Presently my daughter is a staff sergeant and my son-in-law is a tech sergeant — both stationed at Ramstein Air Base (Germany).

Powell mailed more than 150 letters to soldiers through student connections. The students have received several replies.

Erin Melah’s brother, Chris Gillispie, distributed letters to troops at Camp Leatherneck (Afghanistan). His sergeant wrote saying the troops couldn’t believe students cared enough to write not knowing them. Many were moved to tears.

Breanna White’s uncle, Ryan Weldon, is a military policeman in Bahrain. A Calera native and former student at Calera Middle, Powell described him as a nice young man. and proudly said she “isn’t surprised he chose to serve our country.”

White described Uncle Ryan as “the bravest person in the world.” Weldon recently became a first-time father, and, through Skype, he watched the birth of his son Tristan. He wept uncontrollably when Tristan was born, along with his mom and doctors in the delivery room.

Abby Gay’s cousin, Cameron Ellison, distributed letters among troops at Camp Pendleton (California) and Heaven Anderson’s cousin distributed letters to an undisclosed location.

Edward Dabbs’ father, Glenn Dabbs, just returned from Iraq, where he served as chaplain assistant. Edward talked about community support and described his emotional experience with the assignment.

“My dad has been away, so I know what it’s like for them to be away from their families. They put their life on the line for us, and they need to know we care about them,” he said.

Powell’s goal in the assignment was threefold: Improve proficiency in writing composition and penmanship, encourage our military and, most importantly, a lesson in patriotism. She believes young people need to better understand the sacrifice the men and women fighting for our country have made.

Mollie Brown can be reached at dmjhb1@bellsouth.net.