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Novel, war prompt GMS students to reach out to military

May 15, 2013 - Goodrich-A book used to study historical fiction—is now a little reality.

Michelle LaRowe, a district teacher for the past 12 years who currently serves as an eighth grade literature instructor for about 90 students and three classes incorporated, "Stop the Sun," by author Gary Paulsen into her class work.

Paulsen's story is how 13-year-old Terry Erickson deals with his father's Vietnam Syndrome, a psychological disturbance.

The book prompted a reaction from students, added LaRowe.

"They really had a connection," she said. "I was just shocked by the stories these students who are about 14-years-old, had to share after they read the book and the discussion that followed. A lot of the students mentioned their grandfathers war experiences in Vietnam. Perhaps they now accept some of the sacrifices a generation made and how that to some extent continues today."

The students were assigned to write a letter and share a word of thanks to some of the military currently serving.

"The students had a real world opportunity to respond," she said. "As soon as I mentioned to the students about writing to troops or veterans they jumped on it—their work was just truly overwhelming. Many of the students took the assignment home to give it more time, then returned the next day with the project completed. Many expressed an understanding of the tragedies of war."

The letters were handed over to Mike Lynch, a Berkley resident with a granddaughter that attends the middle school. Lynch, now 70, served in the US Marine Corps from 1962 to 1966 and was on the USS Eldorado in the Gulf Tonkin. He was a communications specialist and served two tours in Vietnam. Today he provides support to area troops.

"I don't know any soldier today treated like we were when they come home," said Lynch. "We want the troops over there to know we are supporting them. Soldiers hear a lot of bad news and misinformation as to why they are over there—it comes down to, 'Don't hate the messenger,' those men and women did not ask to go there."

Lynch said to a soldier it's a big deal to receive a letter from home.

"Some (soldiers) never get anything from home when they are overseas," he added. "So we've tried to make that not happen by sending over items that soldiers need."

Lynch, along with the Stanley L. Moore Detachment, 159 Marine Corps League and VFW Post 9222 in Berkley, Mich. recognized the youth for their efforts. In addition, a local Family Video store provided 150 dvds at a reduced rate to send along with the letters.

"The student's letters really give you hope for the future," Lynch added.

LaRowe plans to continue the assignment for future students at Goodrich Middle School.

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