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News Item: Homepage

Vista Eighth Grader’s Letter Campaign Boosts Military Morale

By Ray Huard


Vista eighth grader Sarah Harden had no idea that her school project would turn into such a big deal.


Sarah thought that maybe she could get a few of her classmates at Vista Magnet Middle School to write letters to soldiers, sailors and Marines serving abroad to let them know they weren’t forgotten. “They can be lonely and having a bad day over there,” Sarah said.


Decorating her letters with drawings of American flags, Sarah said, “I just wrote how I appreciate their service and what they’re doing.”


She figured maybe she could get about 100 or so or her fellow students to join in her project.


Sarah Harden of Vista Magnet Middle School with a framed letter and certificate of thanks for her letter campaign for deployed troops.


By the end of the school year, Sarah had collected 515 letters, which were delivered through Pioneers Services and the nonprofit A Million Thanks to members of the military serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and at sea.


“Those letters are now in the hands of our military around the world,” said Teri Fisher, manager of the Oceanside office of Pioneer Services, the military division of MidCounty Bank, which serves members of the military and their families.


James Green, a retired Marine master sergeant, said Sarah’s letters would go a long way toward boosting the morale of the troops. “It makes them feel special,” Green said during a recent school assembly at which Sarah was honored.


He recalled getting letters like those Sarah and her classmates wrote when he was deployed. “Just to receive those letters in combat made a difference,” Green said.


Pioneer Services President Gary McQuain was so impressed with Sarah’s project that he said that the company would donate $1,000 in Sarah’s name to A Million Thanks, a nonprofit started in 2004 by an Orange County student to do what Sarah did – write and distribute letters to members of the military serving around the world.


The nonprofit also raises money for scholarships and to grant wishes of injured members of the military.


The $1,000 from Pioneer Services will be used for two $500 scholarships that will be given to children who lost a parent killed in action.


“Your concern and willingness to help our military through your eighth grade project is admirable and inspiring,” McQuain wrote in a letter to Sarah that was read aloud at a recent Magnet assembly.


“Your parents, classmates, and teachers at Vista Magnet Middle School should be proud of the letter-writing campaign you initiated, as well as the two educational scholarships for children of fallen heroes that your hard work has now funded,” McQuain wrote.


Vista Magnet Principal Anne Green said that Sarah “exemplifies what we want our students to be.” “I am deeply proud of her, deeply, deeply proud,” Green said.


Sarah’s father, Rob Harden, said he was especially impressed by the scholarships his daughter earned from Pioneer Services for other children. “It’s really special that they want to donate in her name,” Harden said.


During the assembly, Sarah was presented with a framed copy of McQuain’s letter and a special coin, which McQuain wrote was “a sign of respect and welcome.”


Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District Published:6/16/17
Audience: Homepage and Homepage