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8:15 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

A special 'thank you'

PRESCOTT VALLEY ­ Students at Glassford Hill Middle School (GHMS) found a special way to show appreciation for American soldiers who are overseas ­ they received a big, personal "thank you" in return.

At the end of this past November, students in Randy Clifford's industrial tech class sent handmade wooden pens and pencils along with letters to soldiers stationed in Iraq with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.

This past week, the students received a personalized poster and a letter from those soldiers, thanking them for their patriotism and support.

Nhi Vu, one of the students who participated in the project, said she wrote in her letter, "We're thinking of them (the soldiers) over here. This is the least we can do."

Evan Thompson, another participant, said he wanted to "let them know we're proud of them."

Clifford said he was looking online to buy kits so his students could make pens and saw a Web site dedicated to sending the handmade pens to soldiers overseas.

He mentioned the project to GHMS counselor/English teacher Laura Goligoski, who happens to have a brother-in-law, Stan Goligoski, stationed with the 101st Airborne Division in various parts of Iraq.

"This is not a political stance," Clifford said. "I do believe we can say, 'thank you' to the troops in a way that's meaningful to the kids and that's something the soldiers can use."

Laura said Stan's wife said that among all the items the students sent, including Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts in the pen package, the pens and pencils ­ about 110 in all ­ were the favorites.

The soldiers' appreciation for the pens came out in the poster and letter they sent back to the school.

"The 101st Airborne Division would like to thank you for the handcrafted pens and pencils that you sent to our soldiers," the poster reads. "Your hard work and dedication reflect great credit upon yourself, your school and the United States of America."

Each student that chose to participate in the project created pens by putting two blocks of wood on a lathe and shaping them, and then inserting the pen and pencil parts into the wood.

"I wanted to try harder to make it nicer," Evan said.

Nhi said, "I wanted to put more effort in because I didn't want it (the pen) to be the same so I decided to try something new, and I did, and it came out nice."

"When you do something nice for these soldiers," Laura said, "you're also doing something nice for their families."

In his letter to the students, Stan wrote, "All of the soldiers who received your handmade pens and pencils are truly grateful for your tremendous generosity. We know how much time and effort went into making them and we all were impressed with all of the unique designs.

"The military is strengthened through the support of proud Americans like all of you. Thank you all for your patriotism."

The school's National Junior Honor Society and Student Council pitched in to help pay for the costs of the pens and pencils, and Clifford said he's always accepting donations to send his next batch (contact him at 759-4600).

Contact the reporter at hdartt@prescottaz.com