By Andrea Barkan
When Charles Fuller visited Brookings-Harbor High School shortly after Veteran's Day, Language Arts teacher Gary Jones handed him a folder containing 76 thank you letters from senior students to veterans.
"Students wrote to recognize Veterans Day," said Fuller, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Legislative Committee. "It kind of took me by surprise. I never realized they'd done anything like that."
Jones said he gives the assignment every year to his senior English students.
It accompanies the class reading of "Fallen Angels," a book by Walter Dean Myers about the Vietnam War.
"That triggers their interest," Jones said.
Though Jones gave his students the option of doing an alternative assignment, he said about 95 percent of them wrote a letter to veterans.
"The majority of them really do have a deep appreciation of our soldiers," he said.
Jones said some veterans would be amazed at the students' sincere gratitude.
"These seniors ... have respect for the uniform without a doubt," Jones said.
Fuller, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, said the letters reminded him that most teens make positive contributions.
"I spent 30 years in law enforcement and you see the other side of the story," Fuller said.
"(This) is a different picture, a better picture by far," he said.
The letters demonstrated how proud many of the students are to be American citizens, he said.
"I didn't see anything negative," Fuller said.
Many students mentioned family members who are veterans. "They all relate to fathers (and) grandfathers," Fuller said.
He wants the public to know how positive the students' words were.
"This is the whole thing that we do have such kids in our schools," Fuller said.
EXCERPTS FROM STUDENT LETTERS
"Truly you are a symbol of what Americans are. You are the red, white and blue of the flag. You are the stars that represent our states. If it wasn't for you, we would not have such a grand symbol of freedom that flows with the wind so peacefully."
"Freedom is one thing that should never be taken for granted, because freedom is not free. It comes with a price, people have to fight for it. In my eyes you are heroes, every last one of you."
"I would like to thank you once again for everything you have contributed to myself, my country and my future."
Noel J. Connelly
"I hope that in the future we, the younger people rising to power in the country, will look to you as an example. I hope we can learn from your mistakes and magnify your successes. Thank you for giving us footsteps to follow in. God bless all of you."
"I pity the people who have no respect for the men and women who served and still serve our nation. I pity them because they will never truly appreciate what you have done. They will never know what it is like to have a hero. Because that is what you all are. You served knowing the possibility of the worst and yet you faced it like men and women."
"The soldiers of this country are the true heart of the nation. You, the soldiers, are the ones that have put your lives on the line to give the people of this country liberty and freedom."
"You have paid the ultimate price. You have not given only your time, money and possessions, but you have given yourself. I say thank you not as empty, lifeless words but as true, heartfelt appreciation. I would like to repay you and all those who stood by your side, but I don't have money, a trophy or a medal. All I have is my time, pride and my determination. I am more than willing to give all that back to you and my country. If it comes down to it I will not be afraid to fight, I will not be afraid to die. I will not be afraid to be an American."