Hardwick Elementary third graders are writing letters to a friend, Lance Corporal Alex Villapudua, who also went to Hardwick 10 years ago as a third grader. "He came to visit on September 11 and then he came at Christmas time and brought surprises to the class so he's adopted us and we've adopted him," says Hardwick Teacher, Linda Taylor.
They've met Alex only a few times but will always remember him as one thing, a hero.
"He is fighting for our country," says third grader, Shay McConic.
"Freedom and justice," says third grader, Jeremy Conway.
"I thought he was a very special person," says Shay. But, even though Alex is miles away in Iraq, his 22 new friends keep him close to their hearts. Today they're writing him letters of support.
"Dear Alex, I didn't know anything about you until Ms. Taylor told me about you and when I heard that you were a Marine, my mouth dropped," says third grader, Shandon Gary.
Some students are filled with questions.
"How does it feel to be in the desert? How are the marines up there? How are the Iraqi people?" asks third grader, Tiffany Nutt.
Others with appreciation
"I was just so happy that you got to fight for me and this whole united states." But most about how he remains in their thoughts everyday.
"We miss you so much," Tiffany reads.
And hope they'll see him again, very soon.
"I will miss you and hope you are all right," says Shay.
"I get the shivers when I hear someone in the war gets injured or dies. We are all praying and hoping that you come home," says Jeremy.
Alex is with a division in the Marines approaching Baghdad. His last communication home was about two weeks ago in a letter he wrote to his family saying he was fine. He also, said he had read every one of the letters Mrs. Taylor's class had sent him.
Alex told his mother when he comes home, visiting his third grade friends at Hardwick is at the top of his list.