TEMPLE — Children of active-duty soldiers from a Fort Hood school brought holiday greetings and thanks Wednesday to veterans of an earlier era.
A group of 31 Meadows Elementary School fourth- and fifth-graders in the Peer Leadership group handed out stockings filled with goodies to residents of the William R. Courtney Texas State Veterans Home in Temple.
Wearing red Santa hats and pink group T-shirts, the students brought their gifts hesitantly at first, but quickly developed rapport with the elderly residents.
After giving away stockings, the students visited with residents in two meeting rooms and also visited individual rooms.
Misti Wetzel, school counselor and Peer Leadership advisor, said students praised their chance to serve veterans during the holiday season.
The group has conducted a project called Operation Stocking the past two years, giving out gifts to soldiers at Fort Hood.
“They decided to extend the idea to those who served previously,” Wetzel said. “They have been very excited about this. I love how respectful they have been, they are saying ‘thank you for your service.’ They are showing empathy and care.”
After giving away gifts, the students sang carols before eating lunch in the dining area of the Texas State Veterans Home.
Fourth-grader Jillefia Ingle recognized the importance of the service project.
“I get to see all these people and make them happy,” she said. “I love to see them. They might not get visitors, but when they see young people it reminds them of when they were young.”
Fourth-grader Yannick Anthony said it was appropriate to visit the veterans a couple of weeks before Christmas on a day of remembrance for the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
“It’s about visiting veterans,” he said. “It’s good getting so many people to be happy.”
Fifth-grader Hannah Baker was also excited to give back to residents who have given so much.
“We’re handing out stockings today,” she said. “Sometimes they probably don’t get a lot of visitors. It’s really fun to be around people who helped America.”
Peer Leadership is a group similar to student council that provides mentoring to younger students and teaches participants leadership and service.
“I love to see the smiles on the faces of the kids and the veterans,” said Wetzel. “They come alive when they see the kids and we’re hearing their experiences.”
“It fills me with happiness,” said Ingle. “I know I’m doing something right.”