School offers troops elementary support

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:05

DINGMAN - Walk into the Dingman-Delaware Elementary School and you will quickly notice that many of certificates and honors that you might expect to find in a school lobby have come from military units. Turn around and look over the door and you will see a captured Iraqi flag, which has been embroidered with a dedication to the school. Go into the main office off the lobby and you’ll find a small triangular cabinet containing a flag which once flew over the Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Check in at the fifth grade room of Caryn Dingman (no relation to the founding fathers) and you will find copies of the web page of the 101st Army Airborne and a letter from Iraq. Her son, Lt. Clarence Dingman is a platoon commander, serving in Iraq since September. He’s had an unusual link with home though, because students at the Dingman Delaware Elementary School send “care” packages and letters to him and other soldiers overseas. And they’ve been doing it for almost four years now. “I’m overwhelmed by the support from the community. Parent, teachers, students reaching out to let my son know they’re thinking of him is very comforting,” she said. Mrs. Dingman said her son wrote to the class in November to thank them. “I had a hard time reading it aloud, without crying,” she said. In Marty Gurian’s 5th grade room, you’ll find a radio antenna pennant, again dedicated to the school, which also saw service in Iraq; and a lot of boxes. Gurian’s room is a good place to look because he’s been a prime mover behind the school’s ongoing effort to supply troops in the field with some extra touches of home. He said it all started in the spring after troops went into Afghanistan. “I talked to my kids and it seemed everybody had a relative somewhere over there.” Gurian started a “Wall of Honor” in the library, with pictures to get the kids involved and honor the sacrifice. “We didn’t make any judgements about the politics. We were talking about people’s relatives,” he said. But one parent objected to “glorifying an illegal war” and wanted the exhibit moved to a less conspicuous place. At the time district Superintendent Candis Finan heard of the complaint, she had a son in the Air Force, flying a jet fighter. Instead of hiding the exhibit, Finan ordered it moved to the lobby and directed that “more red, white and blue be added,” Gurian recalled. When the overseas military postal services became organized in the Middle East in 2002 Gurian, who is also a veteran, began gathering toiletries, socks, batteries, snacks to ship boxes overseas. He sent a list of needed items home and set up a barrel in the school hall. Over the barrel is a list of friends and relatives serving overseas, where the boxes would go. “When the barrel gets filled, we ship the boxes. These days, we’re sending DVD’s, pillow cases and beef jerky. I think these guys live on beef jerky,” he said. Stores and businesses have chipped in as well, including WalMart and Rite Aid. “Every local business is right on board,” he said. Not counting cards and letters, Gurian estimated that the school has sent 120 to 150 boxes overseas since the fighting began. “These kids are amazing,” he said.