B  U  F  F  A  L  O      N  E  W  S

Celebrating Old Glory with their hero

Pupils meet soldier from Afghan war

Updated: 06/17/08 7:05 AM

Fourth-grader Elizabeth Codick greets Cpl. Matthew Mondoux as Holmes Elementary School observes Flag Day with visit from soldier with whom they have been corresponding during his Afghan service.

The youngsters at Holmes Elementary School caught a glimpse of one of their heroes Monday.

Some of the Town of Tonawanda pupils stared at him, wide-eyed with mouths open. A few pointed and said, “There he is!” Others smiled and waved as they filed into the auditorium for a Flag Day assembly.

The subject of attention was Army Cpl. Matthew Mondoux, who had just returned from Kabul, Afghanistan. Mondoux had been corresponding with the pupils for most of the school year.

As his name was announced, a loud cheer arose from the crowd of kindergarten through fifth-grade pupils.

“It felt like everyone joined together to show respect for what we do,” said Mondoux, who helps patrol Kabul. “It means a lot.”

Not only did the pupils show gratitude for Mondoux; the Grand Island native was thankful for the youngsters as well. The entire school had been donating aid packages to Afghan children this year through him.

At first, the pupils wanted to help Mondoux, the brother of a gym teacher at the school. But he said that the kids roaming the streets of Kabul each day needed the most help; some went without shoes in the cold Afghan winter. The school, led by teacher’s aide Patricia Baer, responded by shipping scores of notebooks, pencils, glue sticks and shoes overseas to those children.

Mondoux, who returns to Afghanistan in two weeks, said the donation was the “biggest” he had ever seen from one organization. He said the smiles from Afghan children are what keep him going.

“I felt blessed. They really helped out a lot,” Mondoux said.

Pupils at Holmes said they better understood the situation in Afghanistan once pictures of the children they helped were posted in the school hallway. Many of those who pitched in are part of the school’s Kiwanis Kids club, which volunteers both locally and through global outreach.

“You’re proud of yourself and that you helped someone else besides yourself,” said fourth-grader Heather Phillips, 10.

The project helped Michael Bergman better appreciate American life. The fifth-grader can go to school every morning without worry.

“You’d be scared when you wake up every day [in Afghanistan],” said Michael, 11.

Fifth-grader Domonic Imperi had a hard time picturing life in Afghanistan, but was glad to help.

“The kids over there are poor. I wanted to donate something,” said /Domonic, 11. “I felt really bad they didn’t have any homes.”

The pupils’ patriotism was overflowing at the assembly and subsequent parade around the school. Each one carried a miniature flag and sang such songs as “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “God Bless the USA.”

Everyone decorated their red, white and blue construction paper hats differently. But the message from each of the youngsters to Mondoux was clear: thank you.