YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, JAPAN — They’ve sent letters to soldiers, toys to orphans and money for zoo animals of Afghanistan.

And most recently, the 700 students at Yokosuka Middle School sent 18 boxes of school supplies to Iraqi children near Tikrit, where the 4th Infantry from Fort Hood, Texas, is trying to rebuild schools and stabilize the area.

“We’re trying to make a lot of connections there,” said eighth-grade history teacher Kay Taylor.

The boxes of pencils, notebooks, stuffed animals and other supplies — along with two boxes of games and videos for soldiers — are expected to be on the ground in Iraq in a week or so, Taylor said. The boxes were picked up Thursday.

The charitable effort started with a picture of a friend of Taylor’s nephew, a 4th Infantry major, posing with actor Bruce Willis, Taylor said.

The students decided to “help Bruce and the major” get school supplies for Iraqi children; the students also decided to throw in a couple of Xboxes, CDs, DVDs and candy for the soldiers.

She said the students were upset when two U.S helicopters were shot down in Iraq while the students were collecting money.

Some said maybe they didn’t want to send Iraqis anything after all, Taylor said. But then they discussed what happens in war, and how children are innocent bystanders and victims.

They ended up agreeing education is key to making Iraq a less dangerous place.

The students have already begun their next project.

“Now, we’re going to do Christmas cards for the soldiers,” Taylor said.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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