By WILLIAM KINCAID
FORT RECOVERY -- While servicemen and women were fighting Iraqi insurgents last spring, a fifth grade class recorded its unanimous support and appreciation for their service.
The "Let Freedom Reign Overseas Military Project", performed by the Fort Recovery Class of 2012 last May, was a patriotic synergy of originally written music and spoken essays in support of the troops.
Under the direction of Elementary Music Teacher Jayne Evans, the presentation was captured on CD and sent to armed forces personnel around the world.
"Basically this was a special way to reach out to the community overseas...(and one) that the students will always remember," Evans said.
And the troops were listening. In August, Specialist Carla Schmiesing of Ohio wrote back to the children. "I cannot express how much your CD meant to me. Thank you so much. I played it as loud as I could so everyone in the building could hear it. My unit commander, my platoon sergeant and everyone I work with flocked to the door asking me who was singing. 'Only the best class from Ohio!' I said. I am the only person in my unit from Ohio so I have to gloat about my Ohio background," Schmiesing wrote.
"My respect for other people, especially strangers, has greatly increased since I've been here. Complete strangers have sent me care packages. Complete strangers have sent me cards. Complete strangers have prayed for me. Complete strangers have stopped just to shake my hand. It is such a privilege to be associated with Americans like these complete strangers -- with people like you," Schmiesing continued.
"I am proud every day the Lord has blessed me with the support of my country. I only pray that some day I will have the chance to repay the support of you, my fellow Americans. God bless you. God bless our country and our cause," Schmiesing concluded.
Evans said the project began last January as a patriotic program, but quickly grew into a multi-media event.
"We incorporated patriotism and the military overseas with a power point presentation and research," Evans said. "It motivated the students."
Throughout out the spring, Evans, with help from her 21-year-old daughter Kristin Evans, augmented the program with student-written essays and songs, powerpoint presentations on local veterans and active servicemen and a T-shirt design contest.
Fifth grade students Doug Lennartz, Ericka Lennartz, Kelly Nietfeld, Kendra Stammen, Katelyn Jutte, Olivia Schwieterman, Christen Wendel, Jared Kahlig, Adam Pohl, Ryan Gaerke, Derek Gaerke and Dave Tobe wrote original lyrics for the songs.
"I wrote a couple of lines for the "Come Home Soon" song," Nietfeld said. "It was really cool to get involved with the soldiers."
Many of the students' essays -- about freedom and the military -- were spoken between songs. Student Ryan Gaerke wrote, "To me, freedom means hope, love and kindness. I think we are blessed to be free," while Derek Gaerke wrote, "What the military means to me is waking up and knowing I am safe."
Olivia Schwieterman wrote, "When I think about freedom, I realize I can do almost anything I like or would prefer...like horseback riding, reading, and lots more! Everyone also has a right to stand up for what they believe in or who they believe in..."
Christen Wendel also values freedom. She wrote, "Freedom is at liberty, not imprisoned or enslaved, as the dictionary puts it, but to me freedom is much more...When I become old enough I can have a voice in our government by voting and becoming a politician. Every Sunday I go to church and if I didn't have my freedom, that might not be possible."
The fifth grade also had a design contest∆with the winner's creation printed on the project's tee-shirts. Dave Tobe's drawing of an eagle juxtaposed with the flag was chosen.
"I thought about the flag as a symbol of freedom," Tobe said, "and the eagle."
Tobe said he composed his picture, which took a couple of drafts, at home while thinking about the military.
"The soldiers are brave and fearless," he said. "A lot of us couldn't do what they're doing over there."
The "Let Freedom Reign Overseas Military Project" was presented in its entirety to the elementary student body and the public on May 19, 2005.
"It was heartwarming," Evans said. " The community was really supportive."