Coloma second graders become pen pals with veterans

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 7:59 PM EDT
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COLOMA, Mich. (WNDU) - Valerie Krieger found herself grading papers that had blank boxes for written answers. The Coloma Elementary School second grade teacher had to do something.

“I wanted to find a good way - a fun way - for them to write,” said Krieger.

She asked the students to write “thank you” letters to veterans ahead of Veterans Day and sent one of them to her brother, William “Bo” Bohannon, an Army veteran and police officer, who had no idea his sister had asked students to write letters.

For Bohannon, receiving the generic letter from Brooklynn Baryo last November could not have been more timely.

“I had a tough day at work at the sheriff’s department. I had a funeral for a friend that was younger than me...” described Bohannon. “So when I got the letter, it brought a smile to my face. It made my day on a bad day.”

Bohannon responded and asked that Krieger’s students continue to write to veterans. His pal, Brooklynn, began to realize she enjoyed writing.

“We get to learn more about our pen pals and, like, how they feel,” remarked Baryo.

On Monday, Bohannon surprised the second graders by visiting his sister’s Coloma Elementary class, marking his first time meeting his pen pal, Brooklynn.

“He kind of feels like a brother,” Baryo said.

Not only are students showing a deeper appreciation for the military, Krieger said their writing skills have improved dramatically.

“My students now love writing. They, they don’t skip the questions on the tests or written responses on any kind of activity that they’re doing,” she said.

In May, Krieger aims to organize an event that allows other students to meet their military veteran pen pals.