St. Charles Herald-Guide

Letter from Iraq

By Heather R. Breaux - May 2, 2007

Editor’s note: Army Sgt. Jeffry Kieffer graduated from Hahnville High School in 1996 and from Nicholls State University in 1998 with an associates degree in criminal justice. Kieffer joined the Army in 2002 and is married to Nicole Pitre of Marrero. The couple share a son named Anthony. He was first deployed to Iraq in 2003 and was deployed for a second time last October. This is his letter of thanks to R.J. Vial Elementary students and teachers for their community donation drive that supported care packages sent to the troops last Christmas who bravely serve overseas.

Dear Herald-Guide,

My name is Sgt. Jeffry R. Kieffer, United States Army.

My unit, 4th airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, and I are stationed out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.

In October of last year, my unit and I made the journey to our new home for a year, the Forward Operating Base in Kalsu, Iraq or as we like to call it, “the sand box.”

Last Christmas, substitute teacher Shally Young approached an R.J. Vial Teacher and 4-H leader, Lacey Zeringue Doucet and shared her idea of sending care packages to the troops in Iraq.

Between Mrs. Young and Mrs. Doucet, a plan was formulated and actions calculated - and the “idea” eventually became a reality.

Spear-headed by an already busy Mrs. Doucet, the project turned into a school and community-wide donation drive for soldiers stationed overseas, especially those away from family during the holidays.

The support from R.J. Vial teachers, staff, students, parents and the community was nothing short of incredible.

Everyone opened their hearts to support our nation’s fighting men and women.

Donations came from everyone.

Students wrote hundreds of holiday cards and notes for soldiers.

When I was done passing out the homemade cards, not a single soldier in my company was left empty handed.

Soap, candy, toothpaste, deoderant, lip balm sunscreen - the list could go on forever.

As if this wasn’t a remarkable feat enough in itself, it is definitely worth noting that the drive took place for only a couple of short weeks in an effort to ensure that the packages made it to Iraq before Christmas.

All of this during the holiday season - a season of spending time with family and friends.

For R.J. Vial students and teachers, it was a season full of giving - giving to those who could not be with their family and friends.

On behalf of all the soldiers of the 4th Airborn Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, I thank the R.J. Vial staff, students, parents and community.

And a very special thank you to Mrs. Young for thinking of the soldiers in Iraq and Mrs. Doucet for adding another project to her already busy schedule.

Being an alumni of R.J. Vial Elementary, J.B. Martin Middle and Hahnville High, I am aware of the special community that resides in St. Charles Parish and I am exceptionally grateful.

Although this is a letter of thanks to those involved, I feel the following is worth mentioning as well.

There are members of my unit that I was not able to give a holiday card to or make smile for Christmas.

Unfortunately, they made that ultimate sacrifice for freedom before I had the chance to.

Among those killed in action before December 25th was a friend of mine, SSG Jacob McMillian. I met Jacob at a training class in Alaska before deployment.

I only knew Jacob for a short while, less than a year to be precise and I regret that I’ll never be able to grow closer to Jacob.

However, the Christmas card and cheer sent to him hangs dutifully on my wall just above a cross and a prayer.

On behalf of all the SSG McMillians out there, and all the soldiers here, people like the R.J. Vial staff, students, teachers, family and community are the reason we do what we do. To all of you, a quite simple “Thank You.”

- Sgt. Jeffry R. Kieffer

R.J. VIAL 4-H CLUB: Pictured (l to r): (front) Nathan Gaubert, Erica Stinnett, Ralea Scott, Mary Frances Candies, Taylor Cortez, Lauren Beadle, (back) Julia Caro, Whitney Curole, Marisa Frazier, Briar Falgoust, Brianna Hue.
Photo by Heather R. Breaux
R.J. VIAL 4-H CLUB: Pictured (l to r): (front) Nathan Gaubert, Erica Stinnett, Ralea Scott, Mary Frances Candies, Taylor Cortez, Lauren Beadle, (back) Julia Caro, Whitney Curole, Marisa Frazier, Briar Falgoust, Brianna Hue.