Gerald D.A.R.E. students win opportunity to meet with combat veterans

Fifth grade students at Gerald Elementary School and elsewhere in Franklin County participate in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program. At GES, Cpl. James Hardin leads the program. A graduation ceremony is held each year for the class. This year the ceremony is scheduled for Monday, May 20, at 6 p.m.

In 2011 Dep. Herwig, with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, began the D.A.R.E. Kids for Vets Campaign. This project was to challenge his D.A.R.E. Kids to do something to give back to their community. Being a veteran of Operation Iraq Freedom, Dep. Herwig with Cpl. Harden challenged their students to gather toiletry items for veterans in need. Now Cpl. Harden and Dep. O’Fallon are the D.A.R.E. instructors and running the program. Over 15,000 items were collected this semester. 

Students from Robertsville Elementary and Gerald Elementary won this semester’s D.A.R.E. Kids for Vets Challenge. These students were allowed to go on a field trip to take the items they collected to the VFW Post in St. Clair and then visit the National Guard Armory in St. Clair. 

The VFW Post will distribute the items brought in locally and then to other shelters at the St. James and Mexico veterans’ homes. When those centers are full the remaining items will be give to H.E.R.O.E.S Care. 

After helping unload the truck full of items, the students were invited to speak with the veterans at the VFW hall and hear about their military experiences. All of the veterans were combat veterans serving in World War II, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraq Freedom.

The Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton says he would like to thank everyone who made this field trip possible. He notes that he is proud of the D.A.R.E. Program and the commitment the students have shown in making our community a better place.