Angela Hornsby fears that children of soldiers often feel neglected in the hustle and bustle of preparations for an overseas deployment.
With the aid of about 20 eighth-graders at Lakeside Middle School, a group Hornsby recently helped to form steps were taken Thursday to remind those children that they are important and loved.
A family and consumer science honors class helped Hornsby and other volunteers stuff "Hero Packs" that will be given to the children of the nearly 170 Army National Guard soldiers with the 877th Engineer Company, which is leaving this week for Afghanistan.
Goodies donated by military, civic and commercial groups were stuffed into bookbags by the Lakeside pupils and handed out today before a deployment ceremony for the Guardsmen.
"Parents get so busy getting everything ready for a deployment that the kids, while not forgotten, can be overlooked," said Hornsby, president of the Family Readiness Group for the 877th. "These packs are reminders for them that they are special because they also are having to sacrifice for their country."
For Hornsby, preparing the Hero Packs was personal. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Jesse Hornsby, left for the Middle East on Friday as part of an advance group for the 877th.
The event also was personal for the Hornsbys' 14-year-old son Joshua and members of the class that helped stuff the Hero Packs.
Though Joshua said he already has dealt with the emotions of his father's deployment, helping with the Hero Packs still felt cathartic.
"As a kid, I know better than anyone just what the other kids are going through," he said. "It's a good feeling to know that I can do something to help be there for them."
Items Joshua and his classmates helped pack included writing kits, toy footballs, pens, pencils, key chains, lanyards, Frisbees and note cards from Lakeside Middle pupils.
"I know you are going through a hard time in your life, but just know that you will come through this a stronger person," one pupil wrote. "My prayers are with you forever and always."
Younger children will receive coloring books and crayons packed Wednesday by pupils at Norris Elementary School in McDuffie County.
The Hero Packs represent the first non-fundraising civic project for the Family Readiness Group, which formed in October to support families of deployed 877th soldiers.
The company is based at the Lake Olmstead Armory, the site of the deployment ceremony.
In addition to the soldiers, their families, and Army brass, Hornsby said Santa Claus plans to drop by to hand out the Hero Packs.
Also at the ceremony, soldiers will receive a banner created and signed by the family and consumer sciences class that reads, "Thank you for serving our country."
"I feel it's important to get them (students) involved with the community," said Lakeside Middle family and consumer sciences instructor Nicole Ruge. "It's going to be up to them one day to make our community better."
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