Group Teaches Kids to Salute the Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2007 - Elementary school students in Missouri are building their character through activities designed to salute the troops.

A non-profit group called "Salute the Troops" aims to support servicemembers and veterans through character education and school and community events, Carrie Fain, the group's executive director, said.

"We believe in the importance of our kids looking up to real role models of character," she said, referring to servicemembers. "They are the true examples of honor, respect, responsibility, self-discipline and integrity -- (qualities) that we are hoping to instill in future generations."

With the cooperation of school counselors and teachers, the group creates and implements monthly activities that support the troops and incorporate positive character traits.

For example, students collect items for care packages, invite servicemembers to speak, and host veterans breakfasts, among other activities. The program also has children write letters to the troops.

"Hopefully others will see that it doesn't take much to support our troops -- a pen, some paper and a stamp," Fain said. "The simple words of a third grader or the scribbles of a kindergartner mean so much to a guy sitting in a sand-filled trailer.

"He may not write back, but that's not our expectation," she said. "Our expectation is that he does his job and come home."

Salute the Troops is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families at home and abroad.

As a member of America Supports You, the group has had the opportunity to share its philosophy. "America Supports You has allowed Salute the Troops the opportunity to get our ideas out there and show others that supporting our troops is an every day action, not just a one-time project for Christmas," Fain said.

America Supports You also has provided the group a resource to help answer the many questions it receives from those with requests for assistance. "We do our best to help point these people in the direction that will get our troops the support they need, (and) always to other America Supports You groups," she said.

Fain said Salute the Troops is unique because of its target audience: elementary school students. "We want our kids to recognize those who made the choice to serve our country, and serve with honor and integrity," Fain said. "This is a real-life hero that they can look up to, believe in, (and) maybe someone they want to be some day."

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