DECATUR (AP) — Recruits in boot camp don't have access to email or cellphones.
"Mail call is the highlight of their day," said Jennifer Parks, stepmother to Trevor Parks, a Navy airman currently training in Florida.
Trevor's father, Jeff, was in the Navy, too, and Trevor is following in his footsteps.
When Trevor was in boot camp, his family had to get back into the habit of sending actual letters, and it gave Parks an idea. She asked her fifth-graders at Dennis School to write letters to Trevor, because it would provide him with lots of letters, and it would also provide the kids with some practice in writing them.
"I asked him who his favorite cartoon character is," said Kaleigh Barrett, 10. "He said either SpongeBob or Peter from 'Family Guy.'"
She also asked if he likes pancakes because she does, and he said he does, too.
Parks didn't give the students any guidelines about what to say in their letters, but after they've written rough drafts, they exchange with a classmate and edit each other's work for spelling, punctuation, capitalization and such. Parks then gives them a last look before the students go to the computer and work on proper formatting and print them.
After the first batch of letters, Trevor Parks wrote back to each child individually, and he had a favor to ask.
Some of his fellow recruits weren't getting mail, and because mail is such a big event in boot camp, he asked if the students would mind writing letters to his friends, too.
Now the students are working on letters to "Dear Sailor" because, of course, they don't know who might receive their letter.
Trevor will be home for a visit in a few weeks, and he'll pick them up and take them back with him to hand out to anyone who might need one. Students put the school address on each letter so the recipients can answer if they choose.
It's a bit of a challenge to write a letter to a stranger, whose name you don't even know, but 11-year-old Marion Mallard didn't mind at all.
"I asked questions about what he does, and does he enjoy it," she said. "Like, what I wanted to know about him. I kind of wonder if he would like the things that I write or be interested in writing back, because I'd like to get letters back."