Dr. Karyn Chiapella has been on a mission since 2001.
She was teaching at a school in Michigan when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers.
Shortly after the attack she became part of a program called “Any Soldier” which adopts soldiers overseas and sends them care packages.
“Since I have been in Scranton for eight years now, we have continued to do that. This past Christmas, we had four units that we adopted. One of the units is based in Afghanistan and they sent us a thank you letter we just received last week with pictures of them holding the things we sent them and a flag.
“They flew the American flag over their base in honor of our students and mailed it to us as a gift us,” Dr. Chiapella explained.
The flag was raised over the Scranton campus Tuesday morning, the day after Presidents’ Day.
“We flew that flag on our flagpole to honor them, took pictures of it and are going to sent it (pictures) back to the soldiers. We will have the flag, the letters and pictures framed to put on display in the hallways at the school here.”
The unit is with the Air Force currently based in Afghanistan, Dr. Chiapella said. “Our soldier’s name is Marcelino Ruiz.
“The unit we got was because of Col. Tyler Schaas. He went to school here with our elementary principal. He is our go-to guy every year and he gives us names of his units overseas,” she explained.
The program is in its second year at Scranton. “Last year, we had a unit that had like 800 military members in it.
“We send what they need and the community is part of it. We send boxes, care packages with socks, gloves, protein bars – everything they request and need to help them through their time there,” she explained. “Primarily, they are looking for healthy protein that we can send them – like trail mix, jerky and peanut butter – things that can travel.”
“The kids donate their Halloween candy and we put a bunch of that in the boxes. The soldiers will eat that but also give it to the Afghan kids in the communities there. That is always kind of a neat thing,” she said.
This is the first time that Scranton has received a flag from Afghanistan. “That is a huge honor because it is a big deal for a military base to fly a flag in honor of a school and then send that flag here,” she added.
“It is quite an honor for the work they have done (at Scranton) and the support they have shown our soldiers.”
Preschool through twelfth grade students participated in the program. “The kids write letters to soldiers, so they are learning to write letters. We talk about 9/11 every year when we do these. It is part of our Resilience program which is teaching kids to have compassion and empathy for others,” she said.
Dr. Chiapella also thanked members of the American Legion Post 151 in Scranton for help with the cost of mailing the packages. “They have played a really big role,” she added.