OAK CREEK - How do you spell "patriots"?
This was a question Carollton Elementary student Ardiol Dhembi had while writing a letter to patriots – the crew of the U.S.S. Somerset.
Dhembi was actually writing about the upcoming Super Bowl at the suggestion of third-grade teacher Christie Timm.
Timm's daughter, Navy Lt. Megan Timm, was the navigator on the Somerset but didn't go along on the latest deployment. Timm said her daughter needed to decompress a bit but is still in the reserves. She added her daughter felt it was "time to hand the steering wheel over" and move on with the next phase of her career.
The students are writing the letters to the crew of the Somerset – Timm refers to them as her daughter's friends. Letters were sent around Christmas with this second set going out in time for Valentine's Day. Timm said the crew put the first batch of letters up in their cafeteria.
The U.S.S. Somerset left on its maiden deployment in October 2016 carrying 600 special ops marines, 300 enlisted sailors, and about 45 officers, according to the school's December newsletter, The Blueprint.
According to the public affairs officer on board the Somerset, the ship is currently deployed as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
The ship was named in honor of the Sept. 11, 2001 victims of the plane that crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, Timm said.
Notes for the Navy
Reading a response letter from the commanding officer of the Somerset to her students, Timm relayed the first group of letters was "very well received" by the sailors and the kids are "hilarious and smart."
Following a brief refresher for the students about the Somerset, Timm handed out special paper to the students who crowded around to be sure to get their choice between an anchor border, Valentine's Day hearts, stars, or an eagle.
Many students at Carollton, 8965 S Carollton Dr., told the sailors about the Super Bowl while others got personal.
Student Addison Martinez wrote about her lunch as well as some games she played. Others reflected on feelings of being away from family.
Third-grader Nora Liberacki, looking down and whispering, said her mom was in the Army. She didn't want to talk about it much.
Another student, Keli Danek, offered the sailors encouragement for when times are tough.
"If any bad things have happened to you, I hope you are OK," she wrote.
Timm said the reasoning behind the letters was to encourage, bring happiness to the sailors and help teach the students about true friendship. She told her students that the sailors needed happiness sent their way while away from friends and family.
"When you're really a friend it's not just what they do for you, it's what you do for them," Timm said.
She said it worked out that the number of sailors on the Somerset was about equal to the school's population size. She said this letter-writing campaign will help make students more aware of the military, to "open their eyes" for why they say the pledge of allegiance, for example.
Other students in the school are participating outside of Timm's third-grade class. Principal Paul Kenwood said it has been a "very nice, unifying project for the school.
Shea Hogan, 7, is in the first grade and after meeting Megan Timm, Hogan said though she'd never been on a boat, she wants to be a navigator.
"I want to protect the ocean and drive the ship," Hogan said.