Highland Park Early Primary School students wrote letters and sent care packages last week to Montana soldiers stationed in the Middle East.
"Remember that most of the soldiers that are going to get these are from this area," said Judi Kase, a paraprofessional at Highland Park, as she explained the letters to Heather Richman's pre-first-grade class. "You can tell them anything you want."
About 15 Hi-Line National Guard members were called up to join the 639th Quartermaster Company. The Kalispell-based company was deployed in December. The students are sending the letters and care packages to the 639th.
The company has been in Kuwait for about a week and a half, said Darcey Buerkle, another paraprofessional at the school whose husband, Ken, is among about 120 soldiers serving with the 639th.
"It really helps them just because it's something from home," Buerkle said. "It's always going to make them smile."
Buerkle said that between 18 and 25 area children - a few of whom attend Highland Park - have parents or other family members serving with the Montana Army National Guard either abroad or in Great Falls.
About seven classrooms of kindergarten, pre-first-grade and first-grade students wrote letters and assembled care packages for the Guard members Friday. Each package consisted of a letter and drawing from a student and a "Military Personnel Survival Kit," a plastic bag with candy, gum and other items.
The packages will be mailed and should be received around Easter, Kase said. Most will go to the Middle East, but some will also go to local National Guard members serving in Great Falls.
The letters included the name and address of the school and the classroom so the soldiers can write back if they want.
Kase had one request of the students: "Let's not make pictures of guns and war and stuff because we're trying to cheer them up and make them think of home," she said.
Kaitlin Nystrom, 7, drew a row of red roses, and a flag flying on a flagpole beneath a big yellow sun.
"I hope your safe and doing a great job for the U.S.A.," she wrote in her letter. Nystrom said she knows a girl in another class whose dad is serving in the Middle East.
Chris Dennis, 6, wrote, "People care about you," and "Happy Easter" in his letter and included his home phone number.
"I hope he feels really proud of himself," Chris said of the soldier who will receive his letter. "Because he's really doing good things," he said, like "Saving us from giant airplanes that came here a long time ago and knocked down all the buildings."
Brock Morkrid, 7, drew a group of soldiers raising a flag against a red sky, based on a poster on the classroom wall depicting U.S. soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II.
"I think they're pretty proud to be an American and they like being in the world. They help us," Morkrid said. "They help everybody."
Trevor Harwood, 7, drew a purple airplane with orange wings flying over a scene with two soldiers beside an American flag and an orange jeep.
Kyra Cornelius, 6, was about to begin drawing a scene with a flag, flowers and green grass, and a soldier.
Kyra said that a long time ago her father was a member of the military. She doesn't plan on being a soldier.
"When I grow up I want to be a nurse or a doctor, but not that," she said.