Instead of exchanging Valentine’s Day cards and candy to one another, students at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School decided to spread some cheer to veterans this year.
Over 500 Valentine’s Day cards will be delivered to service members from the 106th Rescue Wing, a New York Air National Guard unit in Westhampton Beach, after students in Roanoke Avenue Elementary School crafted poems, letters and drawings.
Chief Master Sergeant Joseph Kruk, who operates as a safety manager at the unit, visited members of the school’s student council to pick up the cards Thursday. He was joined by the base’s media liaison, Lisa D’Agostino, and school principal Thomas Payton.
Chief Master Sgt. Kruk shared his 32 years of military experience with the young leaders — eight fourth-graders elected by teachers — and answered questions before returning to the Westhampton Beach base with the valentines. The cards will be distributed to members of the base in the dining facility next week, Ms. D’Agostino said.
In his role at the 106th, Chief Master Sgt. Kruk said he stays at the base. Active members of the Air Force will move between bases every four years, he said. The students asked questions about his family and career experience.
The idea for the program was formed after English as a New Language teacher Nicole Fallon and fourth-grade teacher Kelly Dillon, who run the student council group, discussed how members could benefit the community, Ms. Dillon said.
In past months, the student council has hosted and planned similar fundraisers, including Socktober, an October 2018 event which collected over 500 socks for Maureen’s Haven, a homeless shelter in Riverhead.
The teachers and Ms. D’Agostino discussed allowing the student council to visit the Westhampton Beach base. Chief Master Sgt. Kruk said student visitation could help reduce the stigma associated with military bases.
“A lot of times, when people drive past our base and see the big black fence around it, they think it’s all secret stuff going on,” he said. “It’s really not. … If we can work this out, it’d be great for you to see what we do.”
Chief Master Sgt. Kruk, who attended Suffolk County Community College, resides in Westhampton. He grew up in Manorville and has three cousins who attended Riverhead High School, he said.