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Soldiers get students' best efforts producing Thanksgiving cards

Sgt. Bowen thanks After School Program for mission accomplished

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Monday, November 19, 2012

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Sgt. Martin Bowen enjoys being surrounded by the children of the Creative Advancement After School Program at Victor Gym. They produced 708 Thanksgiving cards with verses for all the soldiers processed through Greer and now serving in Kosovo.

Sgt. Martin Bowen enjoys being surrounded by the children of the Creative Advancement After School Program at Victor Gym. They produced 708 Thanksgiving cards with verses for all the soldiers processed through Greer and now serving in Kosovo.



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The text on this card produced by Kurt Alicando, 12, a 5th grader, read:

The text on this card produced by Kurt Alicando, 12, a 5th grader, read: "Thanks for serving our country. Every day we remember the sacrifices you are making for us so that we can remain free and safe. We thank you now and always. Happy Thanksgiving."



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Cameron Martin, 10, a 5th grader produced this card and the verse:

Cameron Martin, 10, a 5th grader produced this card and the verse: "Thank you for the sacrifice you're making for our country. We are very proud of you! Your bravery will never be forgotten. Stand strong and God Bless! Happy Thanksgiving!"



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Carlos Cabrera, a 5th grader, produced this design. His verse read:

Carlos Cabrera, a 5th grader, produced this design. His verse read: "When we think of freedom, we think of you. Thank you for your service, your dedication and the sacrifice you and your families have made for us, especially during the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving."



When Sgt. Martin Bowen walked through the door into the Victor Park gymnasium the oohs and aahs of the 100-plus children of the After School Program were overwhelming.

Bowen was a guest to thank the children for the 708 cards with verses they mailed to the soldiers processed through the Greer National Guard now serving in Kosovo.. Among them is Greer Police Sgt. Randle Ballenger, who is serving his third deployment overseas.

The children of the Creative Advancement Afterschool Program at Victor Gym made the cards that connected them to upstate soldiers.

"I know when I was serving and we would get cards and care packages from our families and friends that felt good. Getting them from the public and children means a lot more," Bowen said.

Bowen said he heard the children's reaction when he entered the gym. "It felt good," he said.

Katie Buck, an associate with the Parks and Recreation Department, oversaw the program. "We wanted to send something to all the soldiers (processed) from Greer," Buck said. "Every child participated."

The biggest surprise, according to Ann Cunningham, Director of City Parks and Recreation, was learning there were over 700 soldiers that came through the National Guard Armory for the latest tours.  "We were thinking about 60," Cunningham said with a smile. "But what a great position to be in to support our military."

Five of the design winners were honored this afternoon as they showed their cards to the students. They were Kurt Alicando, Cameron Martin, Carlos Cabrera, Mali Hunter and Maria Bonilla. 

The cards were sent last Thursday in hopes of arriving by Thanksgiving. 

The design winners met the media to discuss their thoughts on their task.

Kurt Alicando: "I got the idea for my card by watching an Army movie. My brother likes Army movies. My dad helped with the fish (clutched in the eagle's claws). My uncle and aunt are in the Air Force. I want to join the Army."

Cameron Martin:" I thought of adding the American flag with the drawing. I saw an eagle in a bowl and thought of it. I want to be part of the Army. I like all the things they do in the commercials."

Carlos Cabrera: "The buildings reminded me of playing games. I thought of the soldiers. I want to be in the Army to learn how to protect our country."

Mali Hunter: "It was fun. I like the Army, too."

Maria Bonilla: "I thought it was going to be boring. But it was fun because it was for the Army. I wanted to do a 3D type of drawing."

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