Students cheer local soldier home from Afghanistan

June 10, 2008 4:55:10 PM PDT
The students at St. Bede's elementary school chose the theme from Rocky to escort another hometown hero, Lt. James Devlin, into their school gym. Devlin, who returned home from Afghanistan in April, came to say thanks for the shoeboxes, stuffed full of goodies, sent to his platoon by the kids back in January.

"It's a big surprise to get the stuff, them helping out the soldiers. It's pretty tremendous," Devlin said.

Teacher Marie Hart is a friend of Lt. Devlin's mother Alice and watched "Jimmy" grow up in the Holland, Pennsylvania parish.

Hart came up with the idea and students in all grades pitched in, bringing in over 200 shoeboxes and bags of candies, toiletries and other non-perishable goodies.

"You know it really made us feel awesome," she said, "We have an appreciation for the troops. We know how precious freedom is. We wanted to thank them."

Conditions were rough for the soldiers---bad food, no running water, outhouses. Some of the men never got the boost of a letter from home.

Alice Devlin could hear their joy over the phone when St. Bede's special delivery arrived in February. "The guys were in the background screaming and yelling. They were so excited to get them," she said.

To thanks them for the special shoeboxes, Lt. Devlin had something from his platoon in Iraq to send back to the students at St. Bede's. "An 82nd Airborne Division flag signed by each member of my platoon." Devlin announced.

Casey Ortiz, a 6th grader, said "It feels really good to know they really appreciate it."

As Lt. Devlin prepares to return to combat, St. Bede's will fly his flag with pride.