True Colors

June 26, 2003
True Colors
By Howie Mansfield
St. Rose of Lima School honored for adopting American troops in Iraq

NORTH SYRACUSE — Patriotism has been high and the students of St. Rose of Lima School are riding the wave. The members of the 865th Combat Support Hospital in Kuwait have been beneficiaries of the school’s dedication to the military since January. As the academic year comes to a close, the school received special recognition from across the country for their efforts in supporting the troops. St. Rose of Lima School hoisted an American flag which was flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. in honor of the school’s contribution through “Operation: Adoption.”

Jennifer Bick, a parent at the school, had contacts with members of the 865th Combat Support Hospital. Her husband, Cpt. Joseph Bick, has many friends in that unit who were stationed in Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bick and teachers talked about ways to support the military and they decided to adopt the 865th Combat Support Hospital. “We have been sending packages to them since January. Our latest shipment went out a few weeks ago,” Bick said. “This group is based in New York Mills, but they were originally from Niagara Falls. Many of them were deployed in the first Gulf War. We officially let them know they were adopted through e-mail.” Over the winter and into spring, the troops and students were in contact, sending letters and e-mails. Bick received digital photos of the troops opening the first care packages from the St. Rose of Lima students. Since the beginning of Operation: Adoption, the students have sent over 1,300 pounds of items to the military. Bick also maintained a wall of information and photos of the 865th Combat Support Hospital. “It’s a great sense of pride for the families to come together as a community,” Bick said. “The military support in this school is wonderful.”

Students in Josephine DeMott’s first grade classroom recently helped with a special project. A special request was made by one of the troops for the school to send supplies for the Iraqi children. The students and parents sent nine boxes full of various items, including socks and t-shirts. “We got an e-mail the other day saying that they received six of the nine packages. They said we were touching hundreds of lives and counting,” said Bick. In addition to supporting the 865th Combat Support Hospital, care packages were sent to the 207th Neurosurgery Team, 1982nd Forward Surgical Team, 101st Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division.

Nicole Ziemba, 6, a first grader at St. Rose of Lima School, enjoyed bringing fun things to send to the troops. “It’s cool,” Nicole said. “We sent them sour cream and onion chips, stickers, cookies and socks. I’m glad we could help them.” First-grader Brandon Iverson, 7, said he was “happy” to help provide care packages to the soldiers. “I sent them Sour Patch Kids, salt and vinegar chips and pencils,” he said. “I’m happy to live in this country.” Less than a month ago, Bick sat down to write a letter to a number of political dignitaries to recognize the students for their achievement. She said more people responded than she originally thought.

The students received a letter from Vice President Richard Cheney. “The President and I have been very touched by the outpouring of support citizens have shown for our brave men and women serving in the defense of freedom,” Cheney wrote. “The citizens of Iraq, like so many oppressed people before them, are coming to know the kind of people America sends forth to meet danger and to defend freedom. Like you, they reflect the good, decent and generous character of the American people.” St. Rose of Lima School received a Legislative Resolution from the New York State Assembly. The resolution, sponsored by Assemblyman Jeff Brown, stated the pride of the Assembly on the school’s Operation: Adoption. Another member of the Assembly, Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, sent a citation. The school also received commendations from Gov. George Pataki.

Bick said Pat Galvin, aide for U.S. Congressman James Walsh, was instrumental in having six congressmen from districts representing the 865th Combat Support Hospital sign a congratulatory letter. The letter was addressed to Sister Catherine Labouré, OSF, principal of St. Rose of Lima School. “It’s not very often that you get a quick response from any politician, but for six congressmen to individually sign this letter, is great for the school and the kids,” Bick said. The flag the school raised was flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on May 23 in honor of the St. Rose of Lima students’ efforts. “I felt really happy when I heard that flag was flown for us over the capitol,” said Nicole. Brandon said the flag raising was the best part of the ceremony. “It was cool, especially when we said the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Bick said the troops were pleased to have students from St. Rose of Lima send them care packages. “They are very happy that a Catholic school has done this for them,” said Bick. “The enthusiasm of the students never swayed.” First Sergeant Doug Clark, a friend of Capt. Bick, sent e-mail to the students. “I will never be able to say Thank You enough, nor will I be able to ever match the gifts have given to us all. It has been overwhelming and fantastic,” he said. “As we are not a selfish bunch we have shared our gifts with those soldiers and units that are less fortunate than us. We have shared with the rescued Prisoners of War and other patients in our hospital and we have shared with the Red Cross down the street. The children and the school need to know that they did more than just brighten the days of the soldiers of the 865th Combat Support Hospital.”

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