“That’s George,” third-grader Chelsea Thomas exclaimed while looking at a photo of a U.S. Marine. “I’m not finished writing to him.”
Chelsea is among many students at Montclair Elementary School who are writing to 2nd Lt. George J. Flynn, now serving with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines in Iraq. Flynn was deployed to the Middle East in January.
Students are finding a connection to the war overseas by writing to the 24-year-old who graduated from Woodbridge High School in 1997. A black and white photo of Flynn in uniform is posted on a chalkboard in Nina Whitfield’s classroom.
The students write “whenever they feel like it,” said Whitfield, an aide at the school. She is also Flynn’s future mother-in-law.
Whitfield organized an effort to write Flynn about two weeks ago, calling it “Adopt George.”
Her daughter, Nicole Whitfield, and Flynn are engaged to be married in December.
One of Flynn’s favorite dishes is Nina Whitfield’s meatballs and he likes NASCAR racing, the proud future mother-in-law has told the students.
“I think that they’re just as concerned as adults,” Whitfield said of the students.
The third-graders are in tune with the news reports on the progress of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Kayla Bowers, 8, said the only person she knows in the war is Flynn.
Kellyn Tenorio, 10, watches the news every day, she said.
“I think it’s cool because he’s really fighting for us,” Kellyn said of Flynn.
“He’s nice to fight in war for us,” Chelsea said of Flynn.
“I feel sad because they’re fighting for our freedom, and they can die,” said Jessica Byrd, 8.
George Flynn is not the only one receiving letters of support from students.
His mother, Sally Flynn, who teaches kindergarten at Montclair, shuffled through a folder piled with cards addressed to her. One drawing was of a soldier in green and brown camouflage. Another depicted the American flag.
“Instead of writing to my son, they wrote to me,” Sally Flynn said.
Other local students are also involved in “Adopt George.”
Nicole Whitfield, who teaches seventh grade at Graham Park Middle School said her classes have also been writing to Flynn — her fiance.
The efforts to “Adopt George” have led to another school in Prince William County, as well.
Woodbridge High School’s guidance secretary, Sylvia Gielecki, is spearheading an effort to send Flynn a care package. Gielecki is a friend of the Flynn family.
A cardboard box that reads “Operation George” with Flynn’s photo taped on it sits in front of Gielecki’s desk. High school students have begun to fill the box with candy, notes of encouragement and loose change.
“We also wear the ‘George ribbon,'” said Lil Keys, a Woodbridge guidance counselor who speaks fondly of the local Marine. Keys was Flynn’s guidance counselor when he attended Woodbridge.
Sally Flynn said she realizes there are a lot of moms in her situation. The last time she heard from her son was about two weeks ago.
“Hell love getting all these letters — I know that.”