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Marines thank St. Thomas student for letters

Mary and Dennis Farley stood proudly onstage Friday while U.S. Marines thanked their 11-year-old daughter Meghan at her Woodhaven school for initiating a letter-writing campaign supporting American troops.

The Woodhaven couple said their daughter, who is a sixth-grader at St. Thomas The Apostle School, has always taken an active interest in all things military. Meghan planned an Irish dancing performance four years ago for Queens veterans and is currently a junior member of Woodhaven's local American Legion chapter

"She just has this calling," Mary said.

It was this dedication to the military, Meghan said, that prompted her to lead a drive among her students to write more than 300 letters of appreciation to troops stationed in Norfolk, Va.

Several Marines came to the school for a public ceremony thanking the students for the letters but also took a few minutes to honor Meghan with a citation and plaque recognizing her leadership role in the letter campaign.

For Meghan, however, it was just another fun activity she said she enjoys doing.

"I have always wanted to be a Marine," said Meghan, whose two grandfathers were veterans of World War II. "I have always liked helping people."

Meghan said she heard about a national project called The Single Marine Program, which aims to increase the quality of life for single soldiersand those separated from their families, during a dinner conversation with her family.

At the dinner, her father told his family about the Marine program he learned about at work that is designed to increase the morale of troops through initiatives like letter-writing campaigns, Meghan said.

Within a week, the sixth-grader said, she had already met with her principal, Carolyn Strong, who informed the faculty of the campaign. Only days later, Meghan said, the school that teaches pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students had accumulated 100 letters.

"It is a great morale builder," Sgt. Patrick Kirlew of Brooklyn said.

"It is great to know that there are people out there who support what we are doing."

Kirlew said soldiers responded to the Woodhaven students' letters individually. He said those responses then prompted another shipment of 200 additional letters from the school at Easter.

Lance Cpl. Jeff Farrell of Natick, Mass. said he and his fellow Marines drove down last Thursday night to Woodhaven to personally thank the students. He said the letters, which included questions about what the duties of Marines are and words of support for soldiers fighting in the U.S.-led conflict in Iraq, meant a lot to the solders.

"It is kind of hard to put (the feelings) into words," Farrell said.

He said the letters help soldiers abroad gain confidence about their actions in combat and still feel a connection to their native country while they are thousands of miles away.

Strong said her school encourages service projects like the one Meghan undertook. She said such campaigns get students in the habit of helping community members, whether they are local or national.

"We are always trying to get the students to do something beyond

themselves," Strong said.

As for Meghan, she said she plans to continue her service with the American Legion and participate in more service projects, all in the hopes of one day becoming a full-fledged Marine.

"I really like it a lot," she said.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156

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