FALMOUTH — When Cpl. Sean De La Rosa of Texas shipped off for a tour of Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine Corps, he never imagined it would lead him to Falmouth.
But when he agreed to participate in the Soldiers’ Angels program, which is a volunteer organization that provides comfort and support to veteran and enlisted soldiers, he immediately got an e-mail from Julie Blodgett, an English teacher at Falmouth High School.
“I corresponded with him almost every week while he was over there,” Blodgett said.
Blodgett and her sophomore English students have been writing letters to De La Rosa and she asked the students for donations to purchase care packages for him. Many of the students corresponded with him several times throughout the year, writing letters and putting together packages around the holidays.
“I just wrote about what my life was like. I wrote about my swimming and about the fall fest,” said Victoria Sabol. She said she does not know any soldiers personally and that she enjoyed the opportunity to ask him questions about what it was like to serve.
“I asked him if the war video games are realistic, because I was really curious about that,” she said.
De La Rosa said that while he was in Afghanistan, he would share the letters and packages with other soldiers.
“We were grateful that people still cared, regardless of which side they were on about the war,” he said.
Before heading to Afghanistan, De La Rosa served a tour in Iraq, too. He said he had 10 months of down time before heading to Afghanistan. Now he has 24 months off to spend with his wife, Mallory, at their home on the military base in Jacksonville, N.C.
The couple, who are both from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, were married in July 2005, but were not able to have a honeymoon because of his military schedule. So when Blodgett asked if he wanted to come meet the students, he jumped at the opportunity.
“We’ve never been to Maine,” he said.
De La Rosa brought several items to show the students, including an Afghan flag, several military knives and a flak vest. He explained each item and fielded questions from the students at the school on April 2. He told stories about carrying around gummy bears and candy to hand out to children in the villages, and discussed his time as the Marine in charge of taking care of a wounded or fallen Marine’s personal effects.
“It was morbid at times,” he said. “I had 53 cases, and two of them were killed in action.”
The students also wanted to know what the soldiers ate overseas. De La Rosa said they trained and hired Afghan cooks, and even had some Indian cooks who would make curry for them.
Encouraged to use this week’s vocabulary words, one of Blodgett’s students asked De La Rosa if he had talismans he brought with him for good luck. The Marine described a tradition of burying rosaries in the sand in each area where he was stationed.
“I buried one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan,” he said.
This is the second time Blodgett has had her students participate in the Soldiers’ Angels program, but it is the first time the soldier has come to Maine to meet the students. The program requires a six-month commitment from the volunteers and does not guarantee the soldier will respond.
Blodgett said she was ecstatic that De La Rosa was so active about corresponding with the students.
“He’s been awesome about writing back,” she said.
De La Rosa said he and his wife will take their time driving back to North Carolina, stopping to sight-see along the way. Their first stop: Freeport, to check out L.L. Bean and the shops.
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Kingry, right, a sophomore at Falmouth High School, chats with Marine Cpl. Sean De La Rosa last week. English teacher Julie Blodgett’s sophomore class has been corresponding with De La Rosa while he was deployed to Afghanistan.
Marine Cpl. Sean De La Rosa shows Falmouth students in Julie Blodgett’s sophomore English class a flak vest worn by Marines in Afghanistan. Students in the class corresponded with De La Rosa while he was deployed through the Soldiers’ Angels program.