Published March 3rd, 2012
"This is the best day of my life actually meeting soldiers."
Renee' Reagor is a 3rd grader at Healthy Learning Academy in Gainesville... and could hardly control her excitement when she heard Marines were coming to school.
Even though they met for the first time today, they were hardly strangers.
The Marines are from the same unit as Phillip Clark, a Marine from Gainesville who was killed in Afghanistan nearly 2 years ago.
After Clark's death, school leaders reached out to the family to ask what they could do.
That's when they gave the school the idea of "adopting" Phillip's unit.
"They're the closest thing we have to phillip, they're his brothers, they fought with him, they can tell us stories we know are about phillip," Said Mike Clark, Phillip's father.
One of those men, Nicholas Falato, said he hopes the letters carry on Clark's legacy. Falato said,
"He should be memorialized, memorized for him as a person, as a marine, as a husband, as a son, as a friend, as a brother."
"I think he'd be real happy, i think he'd be proud that people do care," said Mike Clark.
Principal Anni Egan loved the idea and got her students to send letters and care packages to the unit in Afghanistan. Egan said,
"We can still teach well above everything we need to teach, but this is what keeps them whole."
The unit and the school began exchanging letters as often as possible and the Marines said at times, its what kept them going.
"The love, just from people we didn't even know. it meant so much, it took away from our cares and our worries." Said Adam Thomas, another member of Phillip's unit.
As much as the Marines enjoyed receiving the letters, the kids had even more fun making them. Katherine Gray is a 4th grader at HLA and she said,
"My favorite part was just letting them know how grateful the class and everyone is that they have been protecting our country."
Reagor and Gray said it best...
"I just said thank you, it's amazing," said Gray.
"They've just been working so hard to protect our country, they might need some happiness," said Reagor.
And no doubt they found it here.
Mike Gismondi, TV20 News
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