Students in Bexley City Schools are making the holiday a little brighter for members of the U.S. armed forces.

Students in Bexley City Schools are making the holiday a little brighter for members of the U.S. armed forces.

War has personally touched the lives of students at Cassingham Elementary with the deployment of city council member Matt Lampke, a captain in the United States Army.

He announced at the Nov. 9 Bexley City Council meeting that his reserve unit was being deployed and that he could be gone for as long as a year.

"All we're doing this holiday season is writing letters (and) making decorations for two members of the military that we know," said Cassingham instructional aide Nancy MacLaughlin.

In addition to Lampke, students have been writing letters to Benny Wright, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army and a 2002 Bexley High School graduate.

"A few years ago we started trying to get in touch with any Bexley grads in the military," she said. "Sometimes we have up to six to seven guys we know there at one time."

Students will write the Bexley alumni three to four times a year and make decorations - pumpkins for Halloween and Chanukah stars and Christmas trees in December - for the holidays, MacLaughlin said.

MacLaughlin said Lampke's daughter Madison is in kindergarten and daughter Megan is in second grade. Lampke spoke at the school's Veterans Day ceremony the day before he left for Iraq. Cassingham asked Lampke to fly its U.S. flag at his base in Iraq.

"I took 9-11 very personally and realized that could have been me or anyone I knew that got killed that day," she said. "Anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan is there protecting me and everyone over here. We need to do something to show them they are appreciated."

Second-grade teacher Diana Pryor said her students are writing letters to Lampke and communicate with him via Skype every day at 10 a.m. Students are able to get in front of the camera and ask him questions. He gets to visit with Megan and Madison.

"We are going to do letters and a care package for him," Pryor said. "We talked about things like dice or cards. I said to them, 'Think about going camping with no ability to have electricity. What kind of things would you take to entertain yourself?'"

Pryor said her students are very curious about life in Iraq. They want to know what the bathrooms are like, if the food tastes good, what Lampke's room and uniform look like and how many bad guys has he caught.

"They are really intrigued about those kinds of things," she said. "

Lampke sends the students pictures from Iraq which Pryor posts on a bulletin board in the hall along with some of his e-mails.

Students in Michele Clarke's kindergarten class are making holiday decorations for the soldiers. There are a variety of things to choose from including some items that are not Christian based, she said.

"They have the choice of making a Christmas tree, snow flake, a snow man," she said. "We're writing a short message on them and going to send them over to let him know we are thinking of them. We are making extras."

Students have always sent holiday decorations to soldiers, Clarke said but this year it is more meaningful because they are being sent to the father of a student. Students know the person they are writing to and thinking about, she said.

"We appreciate Mr. Lampke," she said. "We have a picture of Mr. Lampke and his daughter there to remind us. It's much more meaningful to them."

Fifth- and third-grade students at Maryland Elementary spent some time writing letters to recovering soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital, trying to cheer them up. Third-grade teacher Mindy Hall saw a positing on the Facebook encouraging people to send out an extra card.

"What a great thing to do," Hall said. "I gave them suggestions not to make it Christmas or Chanukah related a happy, holiday, get-well something cheerful."

Hall said the students produced about 25 letters that she will send to recovering soldiers. The third-grade students have a fifth-grade buddy they work with regularly. The two groups worked on the letter writing project together.

Hall said sometimes the students play math games, read a science magazine or complete reading sheets. This project was more collaborative, she said, adding that the student with the neatest handwriting was encouraged to actually write the note.