Phoenix area students reach out to newly deployed troops

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Students are writing letters to troops overseas. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Students are writing letters to troops overseas. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Blanca Ramos of Mesa talks to hHer 19-year-old son, Pedro, who joined the 82nd Airborne this year. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Blanca Ramos of Mesa talks to hHer 19-year-old son, Pedro, who joined the 82nd Airborne this year. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Fourth-graders at Sirrine Elementary School in Chandler are writing letters to troops overseas. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Fourth-graders at Sirrine Elementary School in Chandler are writing letters to troops overseas. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Their teacher says the project is mutually beneficial, as the soldiers give them someone to look up to. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Their teacher says the project is mutually beneficial, as the soldiers give them someone to look up to. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Students at the school also gathered supplies to ship and collected money to mail the boxes. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Students at the school also gathered supplies to ship and collected money to mail the boxes. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

As thousands of additional troops deploy to Afghanistan this fall, some of their families feel like Americans back home have forgotten about the ongoing struggles in the war-torn country.

"It feels like there's a piece of my heart missing," Blanca Ramos of Mesa said.

Her 19-year-old son, Pedro, joined the 82nd Airborne this year. The young paratrooper deployed to Afghanistan, as part of another "surge" of forces in August.

Ramos says she gets the sense that some of the servicemen and women feel a disconnect with the American public.

"It doesn't surprise me that some of them feel forgotten because I think it's true," Ramos said.

Sixteen years after first going to Afghanistan, the latest "surge" of around 3,000 troops brought the number serving there back up to 11,000.

After Ramos talked to some family friends about her concerns, something unexpected happened.

A 10-year-old Madelyn Flahart started writing her son letters.

"I was writing a letter in class, and when Mrs. Jackman asked what I was doing, I said I was writing a letter to Pedro," Madelyn said.

Mrs. Jackman, her teacher, turned it into a class project in her fourth-grade classroom at Sirrine Elementary School in Chandler.

"I want them to know they're not forgotten," Jackman said of the soldiers the kids are writing to.

Students at the school also gathered supplies to ship and collected money to mail the boxes.

"I brought in coins. Almost everyone brought in coins," Kali DeAnda, another student, said.

Their teacher says the project is mutually beneficial, as the soldiers give them someone to look up to.

"Some of my kids don't have a lot of heroes in their lives," Jackman said.

"It started a thought process with the kids which they didn't have before. They're now thinking about what it's like to spend the holiday away from your family," Shannon Flahart, Madelyn's mother, said.

"I hope it makes them feel comfortable and really nice," Dayton Benson, another student, said.

"I hope that they'll feel appreciated that people care about them and they're not forgotten," Kali added.

Ramos is touched by their project.

"It's wonderful that they're sending it all to him. He's going to see all of this," she said.

Her son will be on a mission, and out of communication, for the next few weeks.

The class hopes he'll come visit when his deployment ends in April.

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Jared DillinghamJared anchors the weekend newscasts at 5, 6, 9 and 10pm on both 3TV and CBS5. He also reports during the week for both stations.

Click to learn more about Jared.

Jared Dillingham

Over his decade in Phoenix, Jared has worked all shifts at 3TV, including a yearlong stint anchoring the weekend morning show.

Since 2007, Jared has covered everything from Senator John McCain's campaign for president, to the Jodi Arias trial, to the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Jared grew up in New York, and graduated from Syracuse University with degrees in broadcast journalism and political science.

After internships at News12 Long Island and NBC in Washington, DC, Jared moved to beautiful "Big Sky Country." He spent a year at KRTV in Great Falls, Montana, before moving to KREM in Spokane, Washington.

The Valley has truly become "home" for Jared. He lives in Phoenix, and spends his mornings listening to as many news/political podcasts as possible, while walking his (now elderly) rescue dogs, Gabby and Bree.

On his days off, Jared can be found at any of the local restaurants which have popped up in the city since he first moved here, or hiking Piestewa Peak or Camelback Mountain.

He also travels as much as possible and runs a blog with advice on visiting cities around the world.

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