By Ed Moreth 

PLAINS PEN PALS

Art forges relationship between students, Coast Guard

 

April 11, 2019

Ed Moreth

FUTURE COASTIES – The third grade class at Plains Elementary School gather around a painting of a horse representing the Coast Guard by Dave Williams. Members of Coast Guard Aids To Navigation Team 15 made a rope frame for the painting. The students are: Back row left to right: Kolter Marjerrison, Colten Butler, Mika Schulze, Jordyn Bagaoisan, Lyla MacDonald. Middle row left to right: Tristan Allan, Elisabeth Weedeman, Kaden Trull, Jesse Mitchell, Kody Apgar. Front row left to right:  Bella Chaney, Grace, Subatch, Emma Dimond.

The Coast Guard isn't targeting elementary kids for future recruits, but one unit in Washington state has taken in a Plains Elementary School class as its new pen pals, thanks to two local men who brought the two groups together.

The third grade class of Julie Warner started writing the crew members of Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team 15 (ANT 15) in Kennewick, Washington, in February, when Plains artist Dave Williams and his brother-in-law Ed Foste transported a painting to the unit in an effort to adopt the crew as part of Joint Operation Maraposa, a nonprofit organization designed to bring awareness to veteran suicides and the families that are impacted. The trip was to also ask the station crew if they'd like to correspond with Plains students.

The horse had been part of a display in Plains last September, when 216 horses painted on burlap were attached to the chain link fence along the greenway. Williams called it the Wild Horse Plains herd. In addition to the main herd, Williams completed a 5-by-8-foot horse painting of each of the five military branches each designed in the colors of its particular service. Once the display was taken down, Williams decided to find a military unit from each of the branches to adopt their service's horse. The Coast Guard is the only unit to respond, so far, said Williams.


Sanders County Ledger canvas prints

"The idea was that the horse was here and got deployed to the Coast Guard unit. We went to Kennewick to see if they wanted to be our Coast Guard team," said Williams, a Navy veteran.

"I think the project is a neat idea and my students have enjoyed being a part of it," said Warner, whose students are mostly 8 and 9 years old. She said that in their first letter, they didn't have names of any of the Coast Guardsmen at the station, so it was more of an introduction to the class. The kids asked a lot of general questions, wanting to know who they are, where are they from, what type of job they do, and what they like to do when not working.

Williams and Foste returned to ANT 15 recently and retrieved the Coast Guard horse painting and took it back to the school. While the horse painting was at the station, a handful of the "Coasties" gave it a more nautical look by creating a rope frame for the art piece, which was painted on burlap. Because it was when the government shutdown was taking place and Coast Guard people weren't getting paid, the two men took supplies to the station.

"The horse was pretty impressive," said Chief Petty Officer Jesse Bruce, officer in charge of the Coast Guard ANT team. "We liked hearing from the students. We're all looking forward to interaction with the class," said Bruce, who has a dozen crewmembers working for him. The unit, located 139 miles southwest of Spokane on the Columbia River, is responsible for about 450 miles of aids to navigation, such as buoys, fixed aids and day markers, along the Columbia and Snake Rivers.


Warner said the kids liked writing to the Coast Guard and will be writing a second letter this week. The letters will likely be more personalized now that the class has names of the Coast Guard crew. Warner said this is the first time in her 20 years of teaching in Plains that her class has had a pen pal relationship with a branch of the military. She said the horse painting was great and the Coast Guard did a great job on the rope frame. Two of the kids said they have relatives in the Coast Guard and a handful said they want to join the Coast Guard when they grow up.

"It was a great idea and great to correspond with our servicemen," said Jim Holland, the elementary school principal, who selected Warner's class for the project. Warner said the kids will keep writing if the Coast Guard people keep up the correspondence, but because it's close to the end of the school year, it might be next year's class.

Williams said he and Foste had a nice reception at ANT 15. Bruce, who showed them around the station, gave them a Coast Guard challenge coin.

 

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