Operation Stocking

Excited fifth-graders from Meadows Elementary School deliver stockings filled with candy, letters and pictures Thursday to soldiers at Fort Hood with the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, the school's adopt-a-school unit.

FORT HOOD — In an expression both powerful and simple, a group of children delivered Thursday stockings of goodies to soldiers recently returned from Kuwait and Iraq.

The fifth-graders from Meadows Elementary School took a short bus ride from their school near the east gate of Fort Hood to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment headquarters.

The eight students representing the school’s in-house television station made the delivery as an expression of gratitude to soldiers from their adopt-a-school unit.

With school campus technology specialist Stephanie Young and librarian Colleen Tedford, the students wheeled two wagons filled with candy-filled stockings to the unit’s work areas.

Wherever they found uniformed soldiers, in parking lots, working in the motor pool and in offices and meeting rooms, the excited students carried their tiny stockings of candy and pictures and letters.

The fifth-graders explained the purpose of Operation Stocking, a holiday season tradition between Meadows and their adopt-a-school unit.

“We wanted to help them smile,” said fifth-grader Mercedes Pepple. “We want them to be happy and to tell them we appreciate them.”

The mission appeared to be a success.

“Having this support from students is great,” said Lt. Crystal Fenelon, the unit liaison with the school and the group’s escort for the morning. “It means a lot to have children look up to them and it gives them some holiday spirit.”

Most of the soldiers returned recently from a nine-month deployment to Kuwait and Iraq and some may not make it home for the holidays.

“We made the soldiers smile and know they are appreciated,” said fifth-grader Ava Shapoy. “We appreciate them because they protect our country.”

Students said it was fun making a trip to the soldiers’ workplace. They sang songs as they walked along sidewalks and into parking lots.

It was the expressions of thanks students liked the most.

“I liked seeing the smiles on the soldiers,” said Emily Steenland.

The eight-member Meadows news crew includes Mary Wodrich, Matthew Franco, Sarah Hay, Olivia Brillhart, Mercedes Pepple, Ava Shapoy, Emily Steenland and Nate’tasha Ladson.

The students gather at school each morning to read announcements on the school’s television station. Since November, they have worked on collecting candy and stuffing stockings.

Students throughout the school donated candy for the stockings. Pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-graders made most of the letters and pictures for the soldiers.

“It lightens the mood,” said Fenelon of the visit from the children wearing holiday hats and delivering gifts. “I see people smile who might not usually smile.”

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