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Soldiers' final letters draw students' heartfelt responses

Somerset High School students Lizzie Vanasse and Sherry Jorgensen work on their writing projects for the website created by the Writing Crafts class.

The final letters written home by American soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have been the subject of the Writing Crafts class at Somerset High School this fall.

Cory Lindenberg, a new addition to the SHS teaching staff this year, thought the subject would inspire some insightful writing from his 15 students in the class, most of them juniors and seniors. The works done by the students were far beyond what he expected.

The students read letters that were the final correspondence between soldiers and their families. They also were shown letters that soldiers carried with them, that were meant to go to their families if anything happened to them.

The projects produced by the students were so heartfelt and genuine that the decision was made to create a website for the class' efforts. Lindenberg enjoys reading online literary journals, so the class created its own. It can be found at the website:

Three of the students in the class concentrated on designing the website while the others worked on the content of the site. The result is a perceptive site filled with a number of creative views on what is happening in the war and how it is affecting the families left behind. The students have written poems, essays and short stories. One student created a video for the site. Another student wrote about his recent decision to enlist with the U.S. Marines. The students have included a picture gallery with many images of the war and the human side of the experience. Links were added to remind visitors that they can donate to charities to help the soldiers and their families deal with these difficult circumstances.

"They treated it with the respect it deserved," Lindenberg said. "There was a deep emotional response."

Lindenberg said some students wrote such emotional accounts that the writings were so personal to them.

The students wanted their writing published so it would help people remember that the war is about people. They hoped the website and its content would help people to keep the soldiers and their families in the front of everyone's thoughts.

"It's something they all felt was important, how they could assist in the effort," Lindenberg said.

The student who has enlisted in the Marines is Harold Medicine Bear. He is planning on following a family tradition in the military. Both of his grandfathers and his father served in the military.

Medicine Bear said he plans to be an aircraft mechanic in the Marines, because he wants to learn a skill that will make him employable when his term is completed.

He said he's been impressed with the work that his classmates have done for the website.

"Some of the stories are really well written and I like the videos honoring the troops," Medicine Bear said. "If I was deployed now, I'd think this was the greatest thing."

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.

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