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Cards, cookies comfort combatants

As a soldier drags himself across dry foreign earth, he sighs. A rough and calloused hand brushes away cold sweat from his dirt-stained brow.

His ragged condition sparks no grudge or ill will. An indefatigable devotion to America and desire to protect civilians compensates the place he finds himself in.

Sharon Scharf, art teacher, has been an avid supporter of the soldiers in the Middle East ever since her nephew, former campus student Eric Von Euw, ’99, went to Afghanistan as a U.S. army soldier.

“I never want our soldiers to feel second class,” Scharf said. “I support the sacrifices they’ve made in America’s interest.”

Scharf explained that a few months after the Gulf War commenced, she came across an Ann Landers newspaper article advertising a way to communicate with soldiers overseas. Scharf jumped on the opportunity and almost immediately involved her class.

“We sent cards very early,” Scharf said. “It was right after soldiers made it to Bosnia and Croatia.”

The class continues to send cards to active duty soldiers involved in the Iraq war today.

The students first contacted Von Euw and sent cookies to him and his comrades.

“Some of the guys in his platoon never got any mail,” Scharf said. “They truly cherished a few encouraging words every so often, as well as a tasty treat.”

Von Euw returned to America in May of 2003.

Kyle Penington, Brad Reynolds, Jason Buchanan and former campus student, Adam Dutcher, ’95, were other servicemen contacted by Scharf’s students.

“I think our letters sort of kept the soldiers company,” Mandi Estes, ’05, said. “We wanted them to know that people were thinking of them.”

A few pen-pal relationships were established as a result of Scharf’s projects.

“I didn’t send the soldiers any cookies,” Melissa Bump, ’05, said. “I sent them letters to express my support.”

Bump went on to explain that when the soldiers wrote back, their letters were heartfelt.

“Some of them didn’t even have the support of their own families,” Bump said. “They were amazed at the consideration of total strangers.”

The class plans to send out cards every holiday. Scharf mentioned the difficulty of reaching the soldiers in a timely manner.

“We’ll send out cards right after Thanksgiving break in order to reach the soldiers during Christmas,” Scharf said. “We usually send our packages at least a month in advance if not sooner.”

In the midst of constant action and bloodshed, soldiers often begin to feel some inner void. Living in such an extreme atmosphere naturally causes a complex blend of emotions.

“It’s a lonesome time,” Scharf said, “A soldier doesn’t know if they’ll be alive tomorrow.”

Scharf explained that she will continue sending gift packages and encouragement cards to soldiers as long as there are servicemen in harm’s way.

“It may seem insignificant to make cards out of construction paper and bake chocolate chip cookies,” Scharf said. “But if even one life is positively impacted, then all the work is worth it.”

According to The Fresno Bee, others are sending cards to soldiers in Iraq. Local painter Susan Kay Stephens recently developed “Angel of Prayers for Peace”, cards to send to soldiers in Baghdad. The blank season greeting cards provide a way for the troops to send Christmas cards to loved ones. For more information call the Bee at (559) 683-7529.

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