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NEWS | Dec. 16, 2019

The gift of giving: Third-grade class receives an unexpected package

By Spc. Dakota Vanidestine 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

During the holiday season, there is always an abundance of things to be thankful for – family, friends, gifts, and much, much more.

A third grade class at Mount Taylor Elementary school has an additional reason to be thankful this year, and that reason is located across the world at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Teresa Crowder, personnel accountability strength reporting officer, 103rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, received 21 letters from Mrs. Doreen Lopez’s third-grade class in September, soon after her arrival, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. In return, Crowder responded with hand-written letters and a special surprise for the class.

Crowder was still getting adjusted to life in Kuwait when she received a package from home.

“I received a package from my brother and sister-in-law, Doreen, shortly after arriving at Camp Arifjan,” Crowder said. “I was still getting adjusted to the time difference and work schedule when it arrived.”

Crowder was not expecting what came next.

“I opened the package and went through all 21 of the letters written by the students,” Crowder said. “Some of them even had knock-knock jokes – they were so funny and adorable.”

There was a common theme among the cards from the students, so Crowder came up with a creative way to thank them all.

“Since most of the students asked about camels, I decided to go and purchase stuffed camels from the PX (Post Exchange) – one for each student,” Crowder said. “Then, of course, I had to write to each of them since they took the time to write to me.”

To Crowder’s surprise, she received a second set of letters while the package was in transit to Mount Taylor Elementary.

“Before they even received the box of stuffed camels, they had already written me a second time around mid-October,” Crowder said. “They did this before they even had an idea that they were getting camels. They wrote me, they told jokes, they drew pictures – the letters were just absolutely beautiful.”

Crowder received a video from Mrs. Lopez of the class opening the package of stuffed camels, and she said their reaction was priceless.

“They were thrilled to receive the package with the camels and letters that I sent to them,” Crowder said. “At first, they thought there was just one classroom camel in the box, but they got even more excited when they realized that there was a camel for each of them.”

Now that each student in Mrs. Lopez’s third-grade class had a camel, an unexpected phenomenon began.

“After they received their camels, they started bringing them into school,” Crowder said. “They actually even began dressing the camels and giving them names.”

Crowder received her most recent set of letters from the class around Thanksgiving.

“Not long after, toward the end of November, I received the third set of letters from the students,” Crowder said. “They drew pictures of the camels, told me the camel’s names, and told me how they take the camels everywhere they go – evening sleeping with them.”

In only a few short months, the students have managed to make a lasting impression on Crowder.

“I didn’t expect a second set of letters, or even a third,” Crowder said. “I think writing back and forth is really teaching them a lot. I see them as little pen pals.”

Crowder will continue to write back and forth with Mrs. Lopez’s third-grade class. The students cannot wait to meet her, and she hopes to make it home in time to have lunch with them and meet their camels, Crowder said.