Coloma second graders meet veteran pen pals

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 6:37 PM EDT
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COLOMA, Mich. (WNDU) - Lunchtime on Tuesday at Coloma Elementary School was a long-time coming for Mrs. Valerie Krieger’s second grade class.

Her students finally had a chance to meet 15 of the military veterans with whom they had been corresponding since November as part of a class assignment Krieger designed called Operation S.A.V.E. (Students and Veterans Engaging through Writing).

“And to have it on the 79th anniversary of D-Day has just been a remarkable day,” shared Krieger.

In April, she told WNDU her students used to dislike writing and would leave responses blank on assignments. This all changed when the kids started writing to the veterans.

“[Now they’re] using complete sentences, making capital letters where they [need] to, and using punctuation,” Krieger described.

Student Sariah Jackson not only developed a taste for writing, she said she enjoys her veteran pen pal named Ken.

“He’s awesome, and I really want to invite him to my birthday,” said Jackson.

Marine Corps veteran Pete Petruk said he was grateful to help a younger generation build on their writing skills.

“The most rewarding thing was finally getting to meet [my pen pal, Jasmine]. After seven letters, we never met ‘til today,” said Petruk.

His pen pal, Jasmine Shackelford, anticipated the luncheon, too.

“Since this day was about to come, I was finally happy and excited,” stated Shackelford.

Brooklynn Baryo reunited with her pen pal, William “Bo” Bohannon, whom she met in April. Bohannon happens to be Mrs. Krieger’s brother.

“My favorite part about having Bo as my pen pal is I get to write to him a lot, and I can improve my writing,” said Baryo.

Bohannon said Brooklynn’s initial letter arrived on a tough day at work.

“She made me smile,” admitted Bohannon, “and we’ve just been really close ever since. So now, I want to know what she’s doing all summer long, and she wants to know if I’ll be her pen pal going into the third grade.”

Krieger will continue Operation S.A.V.E. in the next school year.