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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Writing to Our Veterans

Each year my students have written a "Thank You" note to a veteran in honor of Veteran's Day.  Before writing I prepare a lesson to discuss the meaning of 'veteran' and 'service'.  (I use this interactive poster below to help the students build an understanding. Scroll your mouse over it -click if there is a red circle to go to a website or play the music & video. ) The letters thank these brave individuals for their service, sacrifice, bravery and courage. Very often my students get a response from their veteran.  Many of those who write back will explain about their time in the armed forces and the places they have been.  Many have stated how this is the "first thank you" they have received.  In this process the students end up learning more than just history and geography.


This year we have extended our writing by sending notes several times throughout the year to a local VA Hospital.  A local member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has been gracious enough to come in and speak with our fourth graders about how meaningful and important it is to recognize and thank our vets.  Mr. Frank tells the students how 'thrilled' the veterans are when they receive these cards and letters as many don't have family and therefore, don't receive mail.  He says that these notes are a highlight.

1st Infantry Division
I really didn't believe Mr. Frank until the other day when one of my students received a letter in the mail from one of the veterans in the hospital.  He mentioned in the note that he had undergone open heart surgery and was feeling particularly down.  He went on to say how the note my student sent "made his life!"  It gave him the strength to get better.  Also included in the note was a patch from the 1st Infantry Division which the gentleman had had since 1967!

We had to take our Thank You's even one step further.   I learned about this organization called, Honor Flight Network.  This non-profit organization flies World War II vets and terminally ill veterans to our nation's capital to see the memorials.  (My dad flew with them from Michigan to Washington, DC and had a most memorable trip!)  Recently, I learned there was an Honor Flight New England so I asked all the fourth grade students if they would be willing to write ONE more Thank You.  This time we researched the National World War II Memorial so we could weave in a fact or two with our thank you's.

The power of these notes is undeniable.  And not just for the veterans.  It truly gives my 10 year old students a chance to recognize the efforts of others while learning about our country's heroes.  Students are interested in what these folks did during their time in the service.  They really take such pride in their work because they know it is important work! It would please you to read these heartfelt letters of thanks and know that today's generation really does care!

More Resources:

Operation Gratitude:  Writing Letters & Sending Care Packages to Veterans

A Million Thanks - Year round campaign to show appreciation to Veterans, past, present & future.


  1. What a phenomenal project for your students to do. I love to see teachers taking the extra step to put some heart into school work. :)
    Brandee @ Creating Lifelong Learners

    1. Brandee - I'm so proud of my students. It's hard to write notes to folks you don't know, but because they know the letters are to veterans they take extra effort. A former colleague shared the Veteran Day Letter idea with me many years ago and we have been doing it ever since.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. Thanks for sharing this lesson, Nancy. My students are working on a similar project and this will be very helpful.

    1. It's such a valuable experience and a worthy one too! Please share what you and your students are doing - would love to hear! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. What a great idea!

    I have heard of a few schools in the UK who have done just this, but many more schools need to become involved. Unfortunately there are too many in the society in whioh I live who would not entertain such an idea.

    Sending our military into certain foreign countries has been just too controversial.



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