Misty Brooks helping a student write a letter for a veteran.

Local veterans, along with volunteers from across Western North Carolina, will embark on the Blue Ridge Honor Flight on Saturday, October 14. One local school wanted to make this trip extra special for the veterans. 

Candler Elementary has worked tirelessly for several weeks to write over 270 letters to the veterans participating in the upcoming Honor Flight. Over 80 veterans will travel to Washington, D.C. where they will experience the nation's capital. The idea of the handwritten letters was presented to one third grade teacher who took the opportunity and ran with it. 

“One of my dear friends who is always very supportive of what I do as a teacher presented this wonderful idea to me,” said Misty Brooks, the Enka District’s 2024 teacher of the year. “My friend will be going on the flight this fall as a chaperon for her father Dr. Bob Gunther. She originally asked if my class would be willing to write letters for her dad to open on the flight. I jumped at the opportunity for my students to give back, but I knew we could do more as an entire school.”

At that point Ms. Brooks took the idea to Principal Charlotte Clubb, and they decided each grade level would be asked to write a letter for each veteran on the flight. To add to the learning experience, third grade teacher Karina Padilla spoke to her students about her experience as a current member of the National Guard. She even brought in her uniform for students to see.

“I think it’s incredibly important to make sure every veteran is often reminded of how thankful we are for their service, sacrifice, and dedication to our country,” Ms. Brooks explained. “When we talked about the heroes they were writing letters to, the students were amazed that some of them had served in Korea, WWII and Desert Storm. It created a connection for them that these wars weren't just fought by people from long ago and far away; they're soldiers who are still here and living in our communities, and we need to continue to honor and appreciate all they've done for us and our country.” 

T.C. Roberson High School’s Air Force JROTC will be performing community service and welcoming veterans at the Honor Flight on Saturday, October 14.  A.C. Reynolds High School JROTC will be in attendance as well, with cadets dressing in period uniforms, carrying the associated war memorial flag (WWI - Desert Storm).

Students trying on Ms. Padilla's military attire.