MINDEN -- Tim Ward's black naval uniform was a stark contrast to the striped and flowered shirts of sixth- and second-grade students in Bobbi Arana's classroom.
Ward, 21, is a cook on the submarine USS Olympia. He joined the U.S. Navy soon after graduation from Douglas High School and is stationed in Hawaii.
Home for a short break, he was in the Navy for three years and has two years left. He will likely be deployed to the Persian Gulf.
The students, gathered in Arana's classroom at C.C. Meneley Elementary School last week to help with Red Cross donations to service people, asked Ward lots of questions about life on a submarine:
"Do you get toilets?"
"Do you have windows?"
"Do you have watches?"
"Do you ever brush your teeth?"
"Are you guys gonna do a surprise attack?"
"Do you have any friends?"
"Do you get yelled at a lot?"
"Do you get in trouble?"
From behind Arana's desk, Ward answered all their questions.
"The submarine is 365-feet long by 35-feet wide, about as wide as this room and as long as a football field."
"We have our own berthings (rooms), about 3 high."
"I don't use a watch. Most people are woken up for their shifts so alarms aren't going off and sending out sensitive vibrations."
"We eat very good food, like steaks and lobster."
"My father was in the Navy. I really turned my life around doing this. I've gotten to travel. I've seen Singapore, Bahrain and Japan."
"And I try not to get in trouble."
After Ward finished speaking, Arana's sixth-graders helped Red Cross worker Jim Utterback of Gardnerville carry donated items to his SUV.
The rear of the Jeep Cherokee was practically full. He said he still needed to make stops at Carson Valley Inn and in Carson City on his way to the Reno Red Cross office.
"If people across the United States are anything like what the people in Northern Nevada have done in collecting, we'll have lots to send the troops," he said.
He said Red Cross of Northern Nevada is overflowing with donations of toothpaste, deodorant and lip balm.
Red Cross is looking for snack items, particularly individually wrapped items, he said.
"That would be like beef jerky, chips in the tubes like Pringles and boxed candy," he said.
Red Cross of Northern Nevada will ship the items to the main station in Iraq, to be dispersed. About 50 Red Cross workers are with troops in Iraq.
Utterback, who served two tours in Vietnam with the Marine Corps, said getting items like these to the troops is important.
"It was really great to get them," he said, speaking of Vietnam.
Collecting donations is one way Arana and second-grade teachers Jan Hale and Susan Lacey are balancing the negative side of war.
"The kids are feeling (the war), from the little ones to the sixth-graders," Arana said. "Yes, it's bad. War is bad, but it's also bad what is going on over there.
"The children are very scared. The world is in turmoil."
Arana has been reading fictionalized history books to students.
"Nothing is being said about what good is going on," she said. "It's important for the students to see how we do rebuilding. With all the anti-war propaganda, they need to know soldiers are not bad. They are not killers."