Soldier praises students for clothing donations for Afghan children
On Friday, Batherwich recognized several hundred such heroes on his visit to Londonderry South Elementary School.
Fresh off a six-month deployment in Afghanistan, the Londonderry father of two said his children’s classmates played an important role in his mission.
After two deployments to Iraq, Batherwich said he was initially concerned about boosting the morale of his daughters, second-grader Kiera Batherwich and fifth-grader Nicole LaRock, as he readied himself for his pending tour in Afghanistan.
Upon his arrival, Batherwich and his command unit from Bagram Air Field soon noticed the nearby Afghan kids were poorly equipped for the cold winters.
“It gets cold in the mountains, especially at night,” he said. “Most of these kids had no coats, had no sweaters. The need there was great.”
Seeing the perfect opportunity to get his daughters involved in the cause, he encouraged them to spare a few items of clothing they no longer needed.
When Principal Linda Boyd learned about the clothing collection, she didn’t hesitate to share the girls’ good works with her other students.
“It just kind of exploded from there,” Batherwich said.
By late May, cardboard boxes lined the entire length of the hall, as students diligently sorted through each item.
Batherwich’s wife, Cindy, kept her husband updated on the collection process via email. By the end of the school year, the kids had donated some 1,600 pounds of nearly new clothing.
In late August, the overstuffed packages brimming with warm pants, coats, sweaters and turtlenecks arrived on the rural air base, much to the delight of their new recipients.
“They’re very fascinated with anything from America,” said Batherwich. “And they’re particularly taken with the bright colors we wear. They’re not used to seeing clothing like this.”
Teacher Stephanie Cournoyer said the clothing collection had a dual purpose, as the goodwill of Americans they’ve never met touched the hearts of the local Afghan people.
“These kids’ parents are helping our soldiers, so it just makes sense for us to help them, too,” Cournoyer said.
Dressed in his boots and camouflage, Batherwich received a standing ovation as he entered the school gymnasium Friday morning.
“I’m as nervous as a fourth grader taking a spelling test,” he joked with the kids.
“When we give clothing to the kids, it really helps us build trust with the locals, as they begin to see us as their friends,” Batherwich added. “So you’ve helped keep us safe over there. All of you are heroes even though you don’t wear uniforms.”
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April Guilmet may be reached at AGuilmet@newstote.com.
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