Veteran surprises elementary school class after being pen pals with classmate

NOW: Veteran surprises elementary school class after being pen pals with classmate

COLOMA, Mich. -- Valerie Krieger's second-grade class got a big surprise on Monday with the visit of William Bohannon, better known as Bo.

Bo is just one of several veterans the second-grade class has been writing. He also happens to be Krieger's older brother.

At the beginning of the school year, she noticed her class had some problems with their school work.

"I found that my students hated writing," said Krieger. "Any kind of question that would be on a test, they would skip. They had no interest in writing, didn't want to do it."

So Krieger came up with an idea: for Veteran's Day last year, she had her students write a letter to a vet -- some of them from the local VFW, others she knew personally -- including Bo, a retired sergeant in the US Army. He was surprised by the letter, which came at a critical time.

"It was a day that was weighing on my mind," said Bo. "I had a tough day at work at the sheriff's department. I had a funeral for a friend that younger than me and retired a year after me. So when I got the letter, I opened it and it brought a smile to my face."

So Bo wrote back with a message: keep those letters coming.

And so far, he's exchanged five letters with his pen pal, Brooklynn Baryo, who met Bo for the first time.

"You had no idea I was coming today, did you?" Bo asked her.

"No, no idea," said Brooklynn.

It wasn't just Bo who wrote back. Other veterans from all over the country have been writing to her students, some of them from as far away as Hawaii, from all the branches of the military.

It's part of a new program Krieger developed called S.A.V.E or 'Students and Veterans Engaging through writing', a program she hopes to continue with other vets and students.

She says now, her students love writing, especially to their veterans.

"Once my teacher said we were writing to our pen pals, it was like 'yes!'" said Brooklynn.

Krieger said "The students anticipate getting letters every day. They're second graders, so they think the mail is very fast, but they're always excited about writing their letters, even if they haven't received one back, they will continue to keep writing."

And for vets like Bo, it helps them connect to the younger generation.

"It's nice that they're learning to appreciate veterans, and I think it's wonderful that they're improving in their writing skills," said Bo. "That's why I think my sister did a really tremendous thing by helping the kids to want to learn and to get better without them even knowing it."

Brooklynn said she looks up to Bo like a big brother and Bo said if she keeps sending letters, so will he.

The hope is that this will be the first of many visits for vets and their pen pals.

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