Scarselli students wave flag from the front

A flag that rode aboard a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan was hoisted up the flag pole to the tune of "You're a Grand Old Flag" at Scarselli Elementary School Wednesday.

The school received the flag in gratitude for the packages sent to the unit of Sgt. 1st Class Doug Patterson's Nevada Army National Guard unit in Afghanistan. Patterson's daughter, McCann, 7, is a student in Leslie Campbell and Anne Godfrey's second grade class - the class who participated in raising the flag.

Teacher Cissy Tucker was part of the group that organized the Veteran's Day presentation last year at Scarselli honoring past and present military personnel. The same group collected personal items such as mints, razors and plastic bags to send to Patterson's unit.

"We want to pass thanks to members of staff and the Parent-Teacher Organization who contributed and sent boxes to the soldiers," Tucker said. "We're going to send more in March to units from Nevada."

Patterson wrote a letter of thanks to the students and faculty of Scarselli and to the community who sent "care packages."

"The cards that the students sent adorn the wall by our Christmas tree," Patterson wrote in his letter. "Thank you for your kind thoughts. They make us smile when sometimes it is hard to. Please accept this flag on behalf of the fine Americans of Task Force Storm in Kandahar, Afghanistan."

Patterson serves as a ground technician for a Chinook CH-47D that came from Stead.

"As part of Veteran's Day, third-graders sent letters to soldiers in Sgt. Patterson's unit," said principal Brandon Swain. "Doug wrote most of the letters back to the students."

Tucker created a bulletin board at the school featuring the flag, letters from Patterson and his unit and a photo of the Chinook helicopter.

"The kids like to comment that the flag on the bulletin board was on that helicopter," said Tucker.

Patterson's wife, Felicia, said that the program and gifts made a difference to her husband's unit.

"The soldiers were thrilled that the kids wrote letters," Felicia Patterson said. "Doug put the letters in each guy's stocking for Christmas. He tried to make it all Christmas-y for them and got a tree. I don't know where he got a Christmas tree in Afghanistan.

"I've never seen so much writing from Doug," said Patterson about her husband answering most of the students' letters. "He wanted to make sure the kids all got an answer."

Felicia Patterson said her husband doesn't usually write letters but communicates with his family by e-mail.

"McCann 'talks' with her dad when I'm not home," she said. "It gets her typing skills going. We also have video on the computer, although it's not that good. He can see us that way on a regular basis, but most soldiers don't get to do that unless they're on a base in Iraq."

Patterson completes his tour of duty in Afghanistan within a month, although an exact date isn't known to his family.

"He'll be home for good," said Felicia Patterson. "He's been gone since January 2005. Doug says that when he comes home he'll address McCann's class. He'll come in uniform and bring photos of the helicopters."

Patterson said she recently volunteered for the homecoming program for whenever her husband's unit comes home.

"Parties are important," she said. "We need to recognize our military guys more. They didn't do that for Vietnam vets. The school's Veteran's Day program was great. We should do that every year."


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