Sixth-graders play Santa to soldier serving in Afghanistan |

Sixth-graders play Santa to soldier serving in Afghanistan

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Sixth-grader Bianca Carrasco, 11, of Eagle Valley Middle School makes a Christmas card for Staff Sgt. Joseph Pastorek in Afghanistan. The class is participating in the Army's "Operation Giving Thanks."

Walking through Stacee Cress’ homeroom class, the desks are adorned with debris of red and green amid a flurry of hands working to package an American Christmas and send it overseas.

The box includes Christmas cards, a banner and a variety of items including movies, food and baby wipes – all set to be sealed today and wing its way to Staff Sergeant Joseph Pastorek in Afghanistan.

It is the second package the class has sent to the soldier. The first was sent before Thanksgiving after Cress’ class adopted Pastorek through a program called Operation Giving Thanks, co-sponsored by Channel One and the U.S. Army.

After receiving the first package, Pastorek wrote back to the class through e-mail and has continued to correspond with the students, answering questions and offering encouragement.

“He talks about being in Afghanistan, and that it’s better than Iraq, but still very unsanitary. He told them to do good in school, and that’s the most important thing,” Cress said.

In an e-mail message from Pastorek to the Nevada Appeal he wrote, “Those kids have done more for me than they’ll ever know. To hear support from home, especially from young America, who all of us are fighting for, is the greatest.”

Eleven-year-old Taylor Barth said he was thinking about Pastorek and his own uncle, who is stationed in Iraq, while he added a pop-up sleigh to his card Friday morning.

“I really wish (the soldiers) could be home with their families for the holidays. But I think it’s nice of them to risk their lives to protect us,” Taylor said.

Sarah Lushina used her card to make a request of Pastorek: Be on the lookout for Santa Claus, and tell her if there is Christmas in Afghanistan.

“I think (Santa) visits them. There are kids there so he must,” she said.

But, Sarah said, no matter what his answer, she just hopes he has a happy holiday.

“I wish he has a merry Christmas, and I hope he gets presents he wants,” Sarah said.

Cress said that, in his writings, Pastorek mentioned he felt he had already received his wish this holiday season.

“He thinks of it as giving everyone in the U.S. a present by serving his country,” said Cress.

n Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.