Students load Santa with treats for troops

Santa spread some "snow" across students at Stearley Heights Elementary School on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. Students gave Santa nearly 700 holiday cards and letters to be delivered to servicemembers deployed overseas from Okinawa.


By MARK OLIVA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 23, 2002

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Santa Claus made an early swing through Okinawa on Thursday to get a helping hand from some of the island’s elves.

Santa’s visit to the school wasn’t designed to drop off holiday cheer so much as to pick a little up and send it on to others for Tuesday night’s big trip around the world.

Students from Stearley Heights Elementary School handed Santa nearly 700 holiday cards and letters written specifically for servicemembers deployed away from the island during the gift-giving season.

“Because of your kindness, a lot of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will be able to enjoy their Christmas a lot more,” said Army Capt. John Morales, chaplain for the 505th Quartermaster Battalion headquartered on Kadena.

The cards will be forwarded to servicemembers deployed from bases on Okinawa to areas such as the Middle East and the Philippines, Morales said.

The idea came was a spin-off of President George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” policy for schools. But school officials here put their own twist on the idea, changing it to “No Servicemember Left Behind.”

“We have several children in the school who have a parent deployed during the holidays,” said Maryann Hume, school counselor. “Doing this was a wonderful way to pull the holidays together.”

Emanuelle Guzman, an 8-year-old third-grader, cut and pasted pictures of snowy outdoors scenes. She said she chose the pictures because they reminded her of Christmas.

“We’re sending them to people who are away from home,” Emanuelle explained. “It makes me happy because I’m giving something to someone.”

Santa Claus takes a minute to talk to students at Stearley Heights Elementary School on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, during a stop to pick up cards and letters the students made for deployed servicemembers.


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