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Small Wisconsin Town Makes Big Impact on Mosul School

By Pfc. Thomas Day, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

MOSUL, Iraq, Oct. 20, 2003 – The town of Spencer, Wis., with its one stoplight and 2,000 people, truly is a place where everyone is everyone's neighbor. So when one U.S. Army officer in Iraq e-mailed his parents looking for support for a local school, word traveled quickly.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Capt. Mark Hayry, 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, a unit from Fort Bragg, N.C., attached to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Mosul, Iraq, beams as he and soldiers from his unit distribute donated items to Iraqi school children. Led by Hayry's parents, the people in and around Spencer, Wis., collected supplies for the Ihlaila primary school. Army photo by Pfc. Thomas Day

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Capt. Mark Hayry, 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, a unit from Fort Bragg, N.C., attached to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) here, has worked with the Ihlaila primary school, three miles down the road from his battalion's tactical operations center, since early summer. The school was ruined by years of neglect under Saddam Hussein's regime. Under the division's Commander'sEmergency Relief Program, the school was brought back to life in July with $8,000 in coalition funds.

The students returned to a new school Oct. 1 with nearly double the past enrollment.

Hayry's mother, Pam, is a teacher at the Spencer Public Schools, where all grades are in a single two-story building. She and the captain's father, Bruce, the town's postmaster, went to work rounding up supplies when their son told them about the impoverished school.

"The school project was mentioned in church the following Sunday, and on Monday (my mother) received a phone call from a local newspaper. The paper interviewed her about the school project and immediately after the paper was published, collection boxes were set up in all the local banks in Spencer, (and the surrounding towns of) Marshfield, Colby, Abbottsford and Unity," Hayry said.

Local churches also began collecting items for the school. The women of United Methodist Church in Spencer made more than 130 tote bags for the students.

Small and some not-so-small businesses around the area began to get involved too, according to Hayry. "Wiskerchen Cheese donated $1,000 for shipping costs, (and) Land O' Lakes provided boxes and material to package and ship supplies," he said.

Soon students in the Spencer schools were packaging crayons donated by Crayola, coloring books, pens and pencils, chalk, erasers, puzzles, balls and "anything else you can think of that belongs in a school" for shipment to Mosul, he said.

Hayry and a group of the 1-377th soldiers made a surprise stop at the school to deliver the goodies Oct. 18. The fun and excitement have just begun, according to Hayry. More tote bags and more goodies are on their way, courtesy of his hometown.

(Army Pfc. Thomas Day is assigned to the 40th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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