When Maddie Dombrow watched the video appeal of 104-year-old WWII veteran, Major Bill White, she immediately knew she must act and respond to his request.
“When I saw him and heard his story, I knew I had to write to him so we could make his Valentine’s Day special,” said the 10-year-old Mountain View Elementary School student.
Maddie, and her fellow fifth-graders at Mountain View, joined together to honor and celebrate the veteran that’s being showcased around the world.
White reminds Maddie of her great grandfather, who also fought in WWII.
“He died before I was born, but my family tells me stories about him,” the fifth-grader explained. “He was in the Air Force, too, like Major Bill, and he got taken into a prison, but he survived, and that’s just like the Major.”
“Major Bill,” as Maddie and her peers call him, moved the students to act and fulfill the veteran’s video appeal for Valentine’s this year.
Major White’s video appeal has been featured on news stations across the country.
“It is an ideal way to marry two of our important messages here at Mountain View: that writing is a top priority as a learning focus for our students, and that we put our mottos into action every day: ‘Be Nice,’ ‘Show Compassion,’ and ‘Express Gratitude,” said Sharon Hackney, who teaches Language Arts to the students. “As teachers, we thought this is a perfect example of how what they’re learning in school and what’s important in their lives combines to make a real-world example of how they can make a difference. And they are!”
Students watched the video, talked about the school’s mottos and character-development program, which focuses on important and positive personal characteristics with a new word featured each month like courage, kindness, and responsibility.
After watching the video, Maddie wasn’t the only student with a strong personal connection to Major Bill and his invitation to share in cross-country kindness. Ten-year-old Zani Wingate thought of his grandfather, too, when he watched Major Bill’s video.
“My grandpa was injured in WWII, and it’s sad that sometimes some people don’t make it out alive. But Major Bill did, and so did my grandpa. I’m so thankful. I’m happy he got his Purple Heart because I know he must have gone through so much, just so much, to get out, it’s incredible. Everyone in the country should be sending him a card!”
Major Bill’s story struck a strong chord with eleven-year-old Larisa Del Castillo Suarez, particularly his Purple Heart.
“He is just so brave, and that is a big deal, his Purple Heart. He fought hard, and was hurt, and saved people. It’s so incredible. So, I made him a medal for his singing, because he sings so good in his video,” Larisa explained.
Because of Larisa’s grandparents’ struggles in their home country of Nicaragua, she says she understands first-hand how important a sacrifice it is to serve in the military in order to ensure freedom.
“People who fight for us are showing us the way to preserve our rights, to protect our way of life. My grandparents did that, and Major Bill, too, and so many other people. I can’t thank them enough. A valentine is something I can do,” Larisa added.
For 10-year-old Steven Jerris, who had a great-uncle that fought in WWII, sending a valentine is an important way to recognize the veteran’s service and dedication to the country.
“They fought – they fight – to protect our freedoms, for our country. I appreciate that. We’re learning about these things in Social Studies. If we weren’t free, we wouldn’t be able to do many of the things we can or have freedom of speech, which is so important. I’m happy that he helped protect us,” Steven said.
Maddie Dombrow’s valentine reads, “I saw your video, and I’m inspired by you. You are so brave! I hope your Valentine’s Day is amazing. My great-grandpa also fought in WWII. Thank you for protecting our country.”
Maddie said sending the Major a card may be a small act, but to her, and her peers, it’s much more than that.
“Major Bill and my great-grandpa, they went into service and gave their lives to make us free, which is so important. I’m thankful. And it is so brave of them. They got hurt, but that didn’t stop them,” she continued. “They kept going. Whenever we look back in our history, we’re looking at them. So, I think that a valentine is the least we can do. We’re very grateful for all the soldiers and for Major Bill.”
For the students’ principal, Dr. Renee Garriss, their act of kindness to the veteran came of no surprise.
“This is exactly the reason our school is such a loving and kind community – our students know that their choices have an effect on others and that by choosing kindness, and showing others what that looks like – right down to our youngest in preschool – they are leading by example,” Dr. Garriss praised. “They’re also shaping their world into the vision they have for themselves and those around them: thoughtful, generous, compassionate individuals influencing others for the better all of the time.”