02/06/07 — Wishes for their heroes

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Wishes for their heroes

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 6, 2007 1:49 PM

Kym Chamblee's husband, Erik, has been deployed to Korea since October.

Married nine years, this is the longest the couple have been apart, she said.

Fortunately, the teacher at Carver Elementary School has found herself surrounded by more support than she could have imagined -- in the form of her second-grade class.

"They know about him being gone. They'll say, 'Mrs. Chamblee, are you lonely?'" she said. "They have really been loving and supportive of me."

Her husband came out to the school before he left, she said, and wore his uniform. It has probably made the situation in Iraq more real for the children, the educator said.

"The war is now more personal for them. They can relate to it knowing that this is real and people do leave," she said. "It's made a real life connection for them."

Herself the product of a military family, Mrs. Chamblee said she has a soft spot for the troops.

She has found a way to parlay her own situation into a teachable moment for her students, who enjoy arts and crafts. On occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas, their handiwork has made its way into care packages Mrs. Chamblee sent her husband.

And now with Valentines approaching, they will have another opportunity to create cards for others stationed far from family.

Carver is one of several schools working with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to help make the upcoming celebration a little more special for veterans and deployed airmen.

The annual "Valentines for Vets" program involves students in second through fourth grades. Also participating are Eastern Wayne, Fremont STARS and Meadow Lane elementary schools.

Seymour Johnson airmen will deliver the cards to veterans at the VA Hospital in Durham. Additional cards will be sent to airmen deployed in the Middle East.

Mrs. Chamblee said it is a fun way for students to show empathy and compassion for others.

"Children at this age are more self-focused. This kind of expands their world to think of others," she said. "I give them suggestions and examples and just let them do whatever they want to do that comes from the heart."

It is also an opportunity to show the military community how much students and staff appreciate their service and sacrifice.

"I think that they really appreciate it because they get lonely overseas. This is something to remind them that people are thinking about them back home and that we care about them and support them," Mrs. Chamblee said.