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School's banner to boost morale of 167th troops

April 03, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

"Drive Safely." "Be Strong." "Go U.S.A." "Happy War."

With such exhortations, and boxy drawings of cars, tanks and miniature men, students at Salem Avenue Elementary School are sending greetings on a 50-foot banner to members of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard serving in Southwest Asia.

"It's the whole school putting their love into one big thing," said Katina Greene, 9, a fourth-grader.

The project began after Stephanie Cline, art teacher at the school, got an e-mail request about a month ago from her husband, Tech. Sgt. George Cline, who is a member of the Martinsburg, W.Va.-based 167th Airlift Wing.

Upon arriving at his new base, George Cline noticed that the troop's mess hall was in need of decoration. Calling upon the combined artistic talents of his wife and her students, George Cline proposed they make a banner to help give the room a little pizzazz.

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"I was shocked because I think he forgets I have 300 students," Stephanie Cline said.

She said, however, she made sure almost every student she teaches had the opportunity to add to the banner.

"It just grew and grew," she said.

Cline said students signed 25 sections of white poster board and added drawings and good wishes. She then connected the pieces of poster board to make the banner.

A section containing teachers' comments was still being worked on Wednesday.

Cline plans to send the banner today to her husband's unit. She included a roll of tape so he could hang it.

Second-grader Corey Reasner, 7, drew a man wearing red clothes and holding two flags. Above his drawing he wrote, "Good Luck! You can do it!"

He said he wrote the message to George Cline's unit out of respect.

"They are doing something for us that I would want to do, but I can't because I'm only in second grade right now," he said.

Third-grader Michael Richards, 10, said he wrote, "Go get 'em back!"

Michael said he sees the war with Iraq as a war against terror. "I wrote that because of blowing up the buildings and shooting innocent people," he said.

Michael said he has two uncles in the war. He wants to join the United States Army or the Navy when he gets older, he said.

Stephanie Cline read some of the comments from her kindergarten art class: "We hope you survive" and "Have a nice day and evening."

She said one first-grader stood frustrated in front of the poster board. He wanted to come up with something original, she said, so after polling his classmates to make sure he didn't repeat any wishes, wrote "Happy War."

"These little kids are 5, 6 and 7 years old sending love, care and respect to people 36 and 40 years old," Katina Greene said.

The youngsters said they hope some of the soldiers send back letters to let them know that they are safe.

"I hope I hear back from all of them," Corey said. "We love them. They love us."

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