Coloma second graders meet veterans they've written over the school year

COLOMA, Mich. -- It was a historic day for Valerie Krieger and Stephanie Rugg's second-grade class at Coloma Elementary.

It was the day their students finally got to meet their veteran pen pals in person, after months of exchanging letters.

"We are all very excited to have you all here," announced Krieger. "This is the first annual, hopefully annual, meet-and-greet for our veterans and pen pals!"

ABC57 first introduced you to Krieger and her brother William 'Bo' Bohannon back in April, with her Operation S.A.V.E. program - Students and Veterans Engaging through writing.

Krieger said her students routinely struggled with writing, so she decided to pair up students with veterans to write them letters, to not only create a relationship, but also to improve their skills.

One vet was her brother Bo, who surprised Krieger's class with a visit and met his pen pal Brooklynn for the first time.

And Tuesday, several other students got to share that experience at a luncheon with their veterans.

"The most rewarding thing was finally getting to meet her because after seven letters, we never met until today!" said Pete Petruk, a retired Marine and Air National Guardsman, on meeting his pen pal Jasmine Shackelford.

"It's exciting!" Shackelford echoed. "Because I haven't seen him before and we haven't sent pictures before!"

Sariah Jackson said her veteran was "awesome, and I want to invite him to my birthday!"

"Seeing the faces on the veterans and seeing the faces on the kids, and how they're lighting up and actually getting to meet their pen pal, it's been wonderful," Krieger said.

She was also thrilled that, after months of planning and hard work from her students, they were finally able to make this meet-and-greet happen, on an equally historic day.

"The kids have been buzzing about this all week, and to have it all happen on the 79th anniversary of D-Day has been a remarkable, remarkable day," she said.

Krieger hoped this program will continue with her second grade classes, and that the meet-and-greet will become an annual tradition.

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