Retired Mitchell Fire Chief Eddie Lee, Superintendent of Schools Jim Greenwald, Madison County Board Member Helen Hawkins; Matt Rice, district director for U.S. Rep. Mike Bost; and Dominique Manley, staff assistant for Bost; along with children from the Granite City School District, hold valentines made by students for troops serving at home and overseas.
GRANITE CITY — Madison County Board Member Helen Hawkins personally knows the effect a letter from home can make on a U.S. soldier serving overseas.
“In 1942, my brother joined the Navy after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor,” Hawkins said. “Shortly after my brother enlisted, my husband joined the U.S. Army. I wrote many letters to my brother and he would occasionally read them to his shipmates to help build morale. Those letters were so important to him. When his ship was bombed, it sank and the letters I wrote him went down with the ship. He kept them in a metal box; I wonder if those letters are still there now. My husband used to tell me how important letters, cards and photos from home were to him and the others in his unit.”
As the holiday season approached, Hawkins wrote a letter to the Granite City School Board requesting for students to participate in the Valentine’s Day program and prepare a card or note to send to soldiers. The board approved the request and students from every grade level worked on the project to give joy and peace of mind to soldiers.
“These children are wonderful and so loving,” Hawkins said. “Such a patriotic act for a child. You could look at those valentines and know they put their hearts into them. I know how that will make the receiving soldier feel. Whether it’s received by a man or a woman over there, that soldier will know that someone in Granite City, Illinois, is appreciating them.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost’s office climbed on board the project through a personal connection. Air Force Maj. Ryan Sanders is the spouse of an employee in Bost’s office and is personally delivering some of the more than 1,000 valentines from students.
Bost’s district director, Matt Rice, and staff assistant Dominique Manley picked up the boxes of valentines from Mitchell School on Chain of Rocks Road and made arrangements for their delivery. The valentines are on their way to Afghanistan, Africa, Cuba, Germany, Scott Air Force Base and Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Marion, Ill.
“Those children are the leaders of tomorrow,” Hawkins said. “This project seemed to touch their heart. I hope they will keep this going on their own in the future and keep that pride and patriotism within them. It’s wonderful what they’ve done and those soldiers receiving a valentine will never forget their kind gesture. We need the next generation to keep this alive.”