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01-22-09, 08:53 PM
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Marines abroad send letters to Stanton children
After big letter-writing campaign for troops in Iraq, kids read letters they got back.
The Orange County Register
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STANTON It isn't too often that homework in grade school gets you anything tangible other than a smiley-face sticker.

Some of the 138 children at St. Polycarp Catholic School in Stanton got letters from real Marines in return for their homework.

"Do you remember writing letters?" asked fourth-grade teacher Michelle Charlesworth at a surprise assembly today organized to hand out the letters. "We asked you to add to your already huge homework load and write five to 10 letters to Marines based in Iraq.

"Some of you procrastinated until the very last minute – eighth graders – but we were able to collect 842 letters," Charlesworth said.

Along with the letters, the students also sent 30 pounds of Starbucks coffee, hot chocolate, cookies and candy canes in December. The load took $800 to ship, which was donated by a local car dealership.

All together, the grateful Marines have sent back nearly 60 letters of appreciation – four to the school and the rest to students individually.

"I told him that I like to drink Starbucks and listen to Linkin Park," said Frankie Nocella, 9, of Garden Grove about the letter he wrote to a Marine.

Cpl. Nick Hasenfus wrote him back and shared some common interests.

"I like Starbucks, too – I think I'm going to get a Frappuccino when I get back," Hasenfus said in the letter. "I listen to Linkin Park a lot when I'm in the gym."

Charlesworth said the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, based in San Diego, to whom kids sent the letters, has been deployed in Iraq for the last two years. Usually, they are the ones who present physical-fitness certificates and show off their tanks and equipment to children at St. Polycarp every spring.

"I just want you to remember," she told the students, "it's the little things that you do that impact the lives of people."

Contact the writer: 714-704-3706 or atownsend@ocregister.com