West Shore Middle School social studies teacher Thomas Acri and one of his eighth grade classes sponsored a dinner/raffle fund-r
Milford, CT middle school kids getting involved in helping to support our troops.
It's difficult to fathom the kind of experiences soldiers endure in the field of battle. Wars may come and go, but for those who come back home severely wounded, those memories last that much longer and the experience ever present.
West Shore Middle School social studies teacher Thomas Acri and one of his eighth grade classes sponsored a dinner/raffle fund-raiser for Homes For Our Troops, a 501(c)(3) charity founded in 2004 and committed to building or adapting existing homes for severely disabled veterans who have sustained life-altering disabilities and injuries in the War on Terrorism.
They assist injured service men and women, and their immediate families, by raising donations of money, building materials and professional labor, coordinating the process of building a new home or adapting an existing home for handicapped accessibility.
"I saw a special report on NECN in December that focused on severely-wounded, returning soldiers in Massachusetts, and I wanted to see if there were any soldiers in Connecticut we could do this for," said Acri. "I e-mailed Home For Our Troops and they gave me the names of two soldiers in Connecticut."
From there, Acri developed an email correspondence with the father of Corporal Brian Johnson of East Hartford, and Melanie Luce, wife of Sergeant Jared Luce of Coventry.
Sgt. Luce, while driving the maintenance contact vehicle in a convoy to Hit, Iraq, was blasted by a double-stacked land mine as he drove the vehicle to recover another vehicle that broke down in the convoy. Luce lost both his legs and suffered severe damage to his left hand and eye.
Cpl. Johnston was wounded November 8, 2004, in Fallujuh, Iraq, when the amphibious assault vehicle he was riding in was hit by an IED. Johnston lost his right leg and arm in the attack.
"I interned for the Non-Commission Officers Association in college, a veterans organization," Acri said. "It really made an impact on me, and gave me the deepest respect for anyone who serves or has served."
Acri chose one of his eighth-grade classes to host the dinner/raffle, who organized the event from sending out letters to setting up tables and chairs to assisting in getting food for diners who needed it, including many veterans. Over 100 people attended the fund-raiser.
"It's shocking that he picked our class," said eighth-grader Matt Boyle. "He only picks one per year for events like this."
"We put a lot of effort into this," said classmate John James. "The veterans look happy."
In addition to the event, each student in the class was also responsible for creating a project display pertaining to some aspect of history.
Acri said up until the event he and the class raised almost $2,000 toward Luce and Johnston.
"It's surprising. I'm from Coventry, so to have someone this far away that cares ... wow," said Melanie. "It's really cool how the kids know what's going on."
Melanie said Jared is now walking on prosthetics and "very positive about everything," often visiting newly returned, severely injured soldiers from the war theatre at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland to boost their moral.
She said finding the adequate words to show her and Jared's gratitude toward Acri's class was hard.
"I think we'd like to say 'Thanks,' but that isn't enough," said Melanie. "I try to think of an appropriate phrase, but I can't. It's above and beyond. We're living our lives, and all these people are a part of it."
"I love to see young people honoring veterans," said Vietnam Veteran Dominick Tordo. "They may not be able to appreciate it fully, but they will one day, especially if they have kids. I think it's a great cause."
"It's just been an incredible experience," said Acri.
For more information on Homes For Our Troops, visit the Web site www.homesforourtroops.org or call Thomas Acri at West Shore, 783-3553