They are not hung by the chimney with care, but a lot of feeling went into the stockings that 110 Task Force Lightning soldiers of the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade will find in their Fort Gordon barracks when they return from Afghanistan this month.
The stockings were stuffed by Riverside Elementary School second-graders with candy, toiletries, handmade cards and more.
"Each (child) went through and filled individual stockings. We asked them what they were putting into the stockings, and several of them -- on their own -- said 'love,' " said Amy Coleman, the second-grade teacher who organized the effort.
The children also made banners to welcome the troops home.
Many of the soldiers, who are returning from a yearlong deployment, do not live in the area. Because they will be here for debriefing, they might not be able to spend the holidays with their loved ones.
"They know they won't be able to go home right away to their families, and we wanted to give them a little bit of cheer," Coleman said.
One of her pupils, Grace Branch, also will receive an extra bit of holiday cheer. Her father, Maj. David Branch, is one of the returning soldiers.
"I think everybody is being very helpful and nice, and I'm happy that my dad is coming home," Grace said.
All seven Riverside second-grade classes participated in the project by making donations and stuffing stockings.
Grace's mother, Lori, said she was overwhelmed.
"These soldiers are going to be so appreciative," she said.
Branch said she has received a lot of support from the school and her neighborhood during the past year.
She said hoped the project taught the second-graders to appreciate the little things in life and to realize that everyone cannot spend the holidays with their families.
"I think it always means a lot to soldiers to have community and people other than their families think about them and take time to support them," she said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.