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Petty Officer 1st Class Ernest Pippen and 4th-grader Sarah Maloy, 10, pen pals during the current school year, enjoyed a visit aboard the USS Tortuga on Tuesday. Karissa Maloy, Sarah’s mother and field trip chaperone, listened in.
Petty Officer 1st Class Ernest Pippen and 4th-grader Sarah Maloy, 10, pen pals during the current school year, enjoyed a visit aboard the USS Tortuga on Tuesday. Karissa Maloy, Sarah’s mother and field trip chaperone, listened in. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
Petty Officer 1st Class Ernest Pippen and 4th-grader Sarah Maloy, 10, pen pals during the current school year, enjoyed a visit aboard the USS Tortuga on Tuesday. Karissa Maloy, Sarah’s mother and field trip chaperone, listened in.
Petty Officer 1st Class Ernest Pippen and 4th-grader Sarah Maloy, 10, pen pals during the current school year, enjoyed a visit aboard the USS Tortuga on Tuesday. Karissa Maloy, Sarah’s mother and field trip chaperone, listened in. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
Chief Petty Officer Paul Barkdoll gives a safety briefing to pupils from Jack N. Darby Elementary School just before the children visited their pen pals from the crew of the USS Tortuga.
Chief Petty Officer Paul Barkdoll gives a safety briefing to pupils from Jack N. Darby Elementary School just before the children visited their pen pals from the crew of the USS Tortuga. (Greg Tyler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — They’d never met face to face. But the sailor and the 10-year-old greeted each other Tuesday as if they were old pals.

Which, in a way, they were: pen pals.

About 40 sailors and their pen pals from the fourth grade at Jack N. Darby Elementary School in Sasebo Naval Base’s Hario Housing Village met to share stories, experiences and more than an occasional hug.

Dr. Kitty Clarke, fourth-grade teacher at Darby, arranged for her class and that of fellow fourth-grade teacher John Cochran to take part in a pen-pal program with the sailors on the USS Fort McHenry. The Fort McHenry recently completed a hull swap with the USS Tortuga, so the letters still reach the same pen pals, just on a different ship.

“We’d done something like this last year, but we just sent letters and care packages to the ships and let them decide who in the crew might be in need of a letter or something we had sent,” Clarke said Tuesday.

This school year, she said, the teachers decided pen-pal relationships should be one-to-one toward instilling community responsibility and caring in their pupils.

“Also,” she said, “it’s seriously been about learning elements of good letter-writing, which might be in danger of becoming a lost art the way things are going these days.”

That would be too bad, said Petty Officer 1st Class Ernest Pippen, pen pal of 10-year-old Sarah Maloy.

“When we go underway, we move into an operational mode and the days are very long,” Pippen said.

“When I receive letters from [Sarah], my pen pal, it brightens the whole day. It brings back home.”

Maria Montepio, 10, has written and received letters from Chief Petty Officer Sylvester “Sly” Miller.

“The thing I like best about her letters,” Miller said, “is her interest in wanting to know me and know more about me.”

He said Maria indicated in letters she might want to join the Navy in the future.

“And she can ask me about what it’s really like,” Miller said. “I didn’t have that kind of opportunity back when I was coming up.”

Arabella Cabazos, one of Clarke’s pupils, has learned a great deal about writing letters through the pen-pal program, she said.

“It’s really fun, especially getting to meet and talk to our pen pals on the ship. Sometimes, they ask us about what’s going on back here in Sasebo,” she said.

“But mainly,” Arabella added, “it’s just fun to know you have another pal.”

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