Kamloops students say 'thank you' to veterans through hand-written letters

By Tanya Cronin
November 1, 2016 - 4:57pm Updated: November 24, 2016 - 4:05pm

KAMLOOPS — Each one is carefully written, with just the right words to say thank you. 

With just over a week to go until Remembrance Day Grade 5 students at St. Ann's Academy in Kamloops are reaching out to local veterans, through hand-written letters. 

While refining their writing skills, the students are learning what it means to honour someone. 

WATCH: Full report by Tanya Cronin

They are personally expressing their appreciation to our Canadian men and women who have served in times of war and recognizing the sacrifices they have made for our freedom. 

They are special words expressing gratitude and appreciation. Just the right way to show that even these young kids can find a big way to say thank you. 

Grade 5 students at St. Ann's Academy in Kamloops, have hand-written and decorated letters to war veterans. Veterans they may have never met, but want them to know they're truly admired. 

"They risked their lives when they go out, and it makes them feel really good about it because there are lots of challenges and it could change their personality a bit when they go out, so it's kid of frightening," says Juliana Frith, Grade 5 Student. 

"I can't imagine how hard it could be, leaving your family is so hard for me I start crying if I haven't seen them in one day, and watching your siblings and friends die is really sad," says Abhi Sharma, Grade 5 Student.

In an era of social media, direct messages and email, the hand-written letters provide a personal connection that is sometimes hard to convey with today's technology. For nearly seven years, Mrs. Ferguson's class has been going well beyond just the teachings of history and military veterans but also reaching out to them, thanking them for their service.    

"They make really good personal connections, we work on making connections and trying to empathize, I know they can't to that level, but they try to empathize with what the veterans may have gone through," says Helen Ferguson, Grade 5 Teacher at St. Ann's Academy. 
    
World War I, World War II, The Korean War, all battles long before these fifth-graders were ever born. But wars more recent like the conflict in Afghanistan has happened during their lifetime, making them even more aware of the sacrifices our Canadian men and women have made.

"I think it's so important for the young people to remember what the veterans did for us, and all the rights and privileges we have and to keep that going with the young people. I think sometimes people think 10-year-olds can't understand that, but these letters clearly demonstrate that they can understand it and they do have an appreciation for it," says Ferguson.

"I'm thankful that they risked their lives and that we live in a free country and we can be with family and friends and go outside and all that stuff," says Kiera Sucro, Grade 5 Student.

"I told them that I'm not someone who likes to be out of their comfort zone, it must have been really hard for them to step out of it definitely," says Thomas, Grade 5 Student.

Like she does every year on November 11, Mrs. Ferguson will take a walk down Riverside Park before the Remembrance Day Ceremony, and hand-deliver letters, carefully placing each one on the windshields of cars, or face-to-face. For the veterans receiving these precious words of thanks, it's a touching gesture. 

"Sometimes veterans write back, they send letters back and students are so excited when they receive a letter because it's a very authentic experience for them, but also veterans have come back and many times they're in tears and so are we the adults and some of the students are in tears because it's just so moving," says Ferguson.

For these Grade 5 students, the experience is their way of giving back to those who fought so hard for our freedom. It's taught them what it means to honour someone, to ensure the sufferings these men and women went through are never forgotten. And most importantly, to tell the veterans they're not alone.

EXTRA: 11 Days of Remembrance

"They'll be really happy and it'll light their day up and they'll just appreciate it," says Sucro.

"It's important to let them know we do care, that they did this stuff for us," says Balison.

"I think they'll be very lucky to have our letters," says Frith.

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