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Eighth Grader's Idea Nets $10K to Help Rebuild Pentagon

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2002 – Like teachers throughout America, Jim Sisler threw out his lesson plan for Sept. 12, 2001.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld poses with 13-year-old Lasidi Helmick, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and members of Helmick's eighth-grade class in the Pentagon. The students, from Moorefield (W.Va.) Middle School, presented Rumsfeld with a check Jan. 15 for the $10,187.93 they'd raised to help rebuild the Pentagon. Photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Ash, USAF.

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Sisler, who teaches West Virginia history at Moorefield Middle School, was more interested in engaging his students in the events of Sept. 11 than he was in local history. He asked his students what they could do to help. Eighth- grader Lasidi Helmick, 13, suggested donating money to rebuild the Pentagon.

Her suggestion turned into lessons in giving and in making government work.

The fruits of the suggestion ended up on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's desk when he accepted $10,187.93 raised through the efforts of Helmick and her classmates. The money was the first donation made under the Show Pride in Your Military Act -- the recently passed legislation that resulted from the 13-year-old's suggestion.

Moorefield teachers called their congresswoman, Shelley Moore Capito, and asked where they could send the money. Capito found the federal government had no mechanism to accept such earmarked donations. Working quickly, Capito introduced the Show Pride in Your Military bill that would allow DoD to accept such money.

At the same time, the Moorefield students were contacting eighth graders throughout West Virginia and the country to donate to their rebuilding fund.

Congress attached Capito's legislation to the 2002 Defense Authorization Bill, which became law when President Bush signed it Dec. 28.

"We decided on donating to the Pentagon because a lot of us have been to Washington, not too many of us have been to New York," Helmick said. She said the students felt the attack on the Pentagon was "sort of in their backyard" and wanted to help. Moorefield is about two hours west of Washington.

Rumsfeld was obviously pleased to see Helmick and her class at the Pentagon. He joked with the students as they posed for pictures, but spoke seriously to the young women and men as he thanked them for their efforts.

"There is no question that all of us here and the men and women of the armed services are very grateful and appreciate the effort you put in to raise an enormous amount of money," Rumsfeld told the class.

He told the students that the military values teamwork and people working together to accomplish an important goal. There may be brilliant geniuses who go off alone and do things of lasting importance to the world all by themselves, Rumsfeld said, but "all of the rest of us don't do that.

"What we do is we work with other people to accomplish things," he continued. "That's what the men and women of the armed services do, and that certainly is what you have done in setting a goal and going out and accomplishing it."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld looks on as Rep. Shelley Moore Capito speaks. At the Jan. 15 ceremony in the Pentagon, students from Moorefield (W.Va.) Middle School presented Rumsfeld with a check for the $10,187.93 they'd raised to help rebuild the Pentagon. Photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Ash, USAF.  
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