At the Polk Street School in Franklin Square, children in every grade from kindergarten through sixth, 689 students in all, were busy making Valentines to be given to veterans who are staying in Veterans Association hospitals such as those in St. Albans and Northport.
The children give their love and thanks on simple heart shaped cards but to the veterans it means so much to be thought of on a day filled with love. "The faces of the veterans I visit light up when they receive these special cards and letters from the students," said Pat Cassetta, a member of the Town of Hempstead Veterans Committee who distributes the Valentines to the veterans. "The feeling the veterans get from receiving the Valentines is indescribable."
The students at the Polk Street School the week before Valentine's Day received a special visit from Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, Councilman Jim Darcy and Cassetta, who collected the Valentines, spoke with the children and even signed autographs.
Murray said that with the Town of Hempstead having the largest population in the country, it is important for children to remember the sacrifices veterans have made. "Many of these men and women don't have families and it means so much to them to know that we appreciate them and love them for the sacrifices they have made for our nation. You truly make their Valentine's Day by conveying your thoughtful messages to them," she told the children.
The proud principal of Polk Street School Gloria Perry said the program teaches the children to care and respect the veterans and the country. "I'm very proud of the children in the school. They really put their hearts into it," Perry said.
The Town of Hempstead instituted the Valentines for Veterans Program in 2001. Murray gives credit to Councilman Darcy for starting the program. According to Darcy, in his district alone, 22 schools participated in the program, up from 15 in 2004.
For many veterans, it may have been a happier Valentine's Day because of the simple messages that came from small children with big hearts.