By Steve Keenan
Local students and others joined in a nationwide movement over the past few weeks.
They are seeking the release of the lone American prisoner of war in Afghanistan.
According to a website set up to raise support for his release (http://bringhomebowe.com/), Bowe Bergdahl is a U.S. Army sergeant assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
On June 30, 2009, Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was captured in Afghanistan by Taliban forces. His captivity has now reached 4 1⁄2 years.
While family, friends and others have been attempting to secure Bergdahl’s release during that time, the current project, http://onemillioncardsforbowe.com/, was initiated to relay a message to the government to bring him home, to create more awareness in the United States, and to possibly send some hope to the soldier and his family through the Red Cross, said Midland Trail High School science teacher Rhonda Chuyka.
MTHS students are among those locally who have participated in recent weeks.
“The students have been very compassionate toward Bowe and his family,” said Chuyka. “To put it into perspective for them, we asked them where they were and what they were doing 4.5 years ago, and from that time until now, that is how long Bowe has been held captive and away from his family.
“Some of the students were angered by Bowe’s situation and wanted to express that anger in the cards.”
Chuyka said the students had to understand to not put anything in the cards that might distress Bergdahl’s captors, and that the cards being received by the White House possibly would not be read. “The point of the cards to the White House is the volume of cards being received as a message to the government to bring Bowe home,” she said.
Cards were also sent to the soldier’s family in Idaho. “The students put more time and thought into these cards because they knew they would be received and read.”
According to Chuyka, all students at MTHS were given an opportunity to participate in the project. Fayetteville High School students took part, as well.
As of last week, Chuyka said she had mailed out over 900 cards to the White House, the Red Cross and Bergdahl’s family from the students at the two schools, Minden Baptist Church, and the women at Jazzercise.
She said that also among the organizations, schools and other entities participating were Valley High School, Rosedale Elementary School, Rainelle Medical Center, Fayetteville Boy Scouts, Gentiva in Summersville, and many individuals.
“The students were very concerned and very caring about Bowe,” said Donna Bowling, who teaches social studies for grades 10-12 at MTHS. “They asked a lot of questions and were eager to write notes in the Christmas cards.
“A lot of them had not heard of Bowe’s story so they were very interested.”
“I originally heard about Bowe at the Memorial Day ceremony here at MTHS last May,” Chuyka said. “His story just ripped my heart and I have kept up with it and done anything that I can to help spread the word and do my part to help him and his family. I read about the Christmas card project for Bowe over Thanksgiving and the idea to include MTHS and everyone around me just blossomed from there.
“My mom always taught me to consider how I would want to be treated in a situation and that is how I see Bowe’s situation — what if he were my family member? He very easily could be and I feel like he is. And he is serving this country; that makes him everyone’s family member. I wish I could do so much more.”
In addition to Chuyka and Bowling, other MTHS teachers allowing their students to participate by making cards in their classes included Vanessa Garrett (science), Greg Crist (social studies) and Susie Walker (health).
For more, visit one of the following: http://supportbowe.org/; http://bringhomebowe.com/; or http://socalriders.org/onemillioncards.htm.
There are also several Facebook pages, including https://www.facebook.com/events/457218810989369/
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