COVENTRY — Strewn across a table in the Coventry Teen Center on Thursday, a handful of cards created by middle- and high school students shared messages of gratitude for those who served their country.
The teen center began its tradition of creating and distributing cards to veterans of the local VFW a few years ago, inspired in part by one particular veteran’s request for a card with a different sentiment than most, said Sharron Propst, a supervisor at the teen center.
“He said, ‘everybody always says thank you for your service,’” Propst recalled, sitting before a collection of cards bearing American flags and hearts and words of thanks.
But for this veteran, and many others who like him served in the Vietnam War, there’s another message he’d been longing for years to hear.
“For Vietnam vets, they never got a ‘welcome home,’” Propst continued. “For that group of men, it was completely different.”
Unlike the hero status given to soldiers returning from other wars, the reception given to soldiers returning from Vietnam was a cold one. So rather than creating only thank you cards that year, the Coventry Teen Center crafted cards for veterans of Vietnam, specifically, that read “welcome home.”
For Probst, whose dad is a Vietnam War veteran, it’s important to honor those who served, and to teach young people to do the same.
“It’s important for them to understand,” Propst said, adding that some of the sixth graders initially didn’t quite grasp the significance of making and distributing the cards.
As she sat, coloring in the words “thank you” with a pink marker, sixth grader Angelina Asselin added that she and her peers haven’t learned much in school about veterans and their role in the story of the United States.
“This is something educational, and tangible, that they can put their hands on,” Propst continued, pointing to a card with the words “valuable,” “enthusiastic,” “trust,” “exemplar,” “ranger,” “ambitious” and “noble” tied together to spell “veteran,” acrostic style. “It’s a good learning lesson for them.”