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'We need to give back'
Students fill care packages for soldiers

DULUTH - Students at B.B. Harris Elementary School learned an important lesson in giving by partnering with Operation One Voice to create care packages for troops stationed overseas, an elementary school counselor said.

Members of the school's Student Council gathered in the cafeteria Friday morning to fill boxes with beef jerky, crackers, granola bars, peppermints, wet wipes, dental floss and more.

The packages will be sent to special operations forces and military police units in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Lt. Bill Stevens, a Duluth police officer and founder of Operation One Voice.

Cathy Koon, the school counselor, said the students were enthusiastic about participating in the project.

One student, trying to pack as much as possible into a box, mistakenly included a biscuit that had been set out for the law enforcement officers who came to help the children.

Keon Grant, a fifth-grader and the Student Council president, said it was important for the students to participate "because the soldiers in Iraq are fighting for our safety, and we need to give back to them."

While the students packed the boxes, several adult volunteers filled out address labels and customs forms.

Cpl. Jill Merchant, a Gwinnett County police officer, said she thinks it's important to send care packages to troops throughout the year, not just during the holidays.

"Servicemen and women need to know they're thought of all year round," she said. "It's important they know that they have our support here."

Deborah Findley, an administrative assistant to the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department's field operations major, said she wanted to help because she is the daughter of a retired lieutenant colonel and the mother of a Marine and an Army National Guardsman.

"As a mom, I want to support our troops," she said. "And as a military brat ... I was brought up to support our troops."

Her son, Spc. Aaron Findley, said the care packages will show the troops people back home support them.

"When you get that support in any way possible, it makes you motivated," he said. "When you're motivated, you do a better job."