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Nov. 29, 2004 12:08 p.m.
If you’re looking for someone who represents the patriotic spirit of America, someone who puts others before herself, someone who practices what she preaches, someone who is doing great work and truly inspires others to do the same, then you can travel to Connellsville, Pennsylvania — about 90 minutes outside Pittsburgh — or you can watch our story on December 26th about high school English teacher Linda Shearer.
Linda has been teaching at Connellsville High School for 28 years. She grew up in the area and has no plans to leave, but the fruits of her labor reach some of the harshest places on earth.
Linda has been working with her students to bring smiles to our troops overseas for years, beginning with a letter-writing campaign and then, post-9-11, with a herculean effort to send care packages to our soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines.
Despite her own battles with cancer, Linda has never wavered in her commitment to the cause. From her sickbed, she got a friend to guarantee she would take over if Linda didn’t survive.
Linda formed an after-school club called “The Patriots.” There are 25 students involved at the moment, and membership changes year-to-year as kids graduate or move on to other projects, but Linda is the constant. She helps the kids raise money by soliciting donations or with a variety of projects, including a “Proud to Be an American” campaign, where students contribute a dollar and get colorful tags with their name on it that now line the school’s halls. The club members take the money raised and go shopping for items the troops need or want most, including books, games, calendars, spices, candy, and hygiene-related stuff like toothbrushes and baby wipes.
They do this several times a year, raising cash, shopping for piles of goods, carting it to school, then putting together an assembly-line in a classroom, separating the stuff into piles on tables, passing and filling briefcase-sized postal boxes to the brim, sealing them up, addressing them, and loading them into vehicles for a trip to the post office. The day we were there they packed more than 100 boxes.
Linda and The Patriots have sent roughly 1,500 care packages overseas, most to Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the packages have gone to the units of soldiers from Connellsville. In fact, some of the students involved have family members serving in Army or National Guard units, either already in Iraq or on their way. Others are involved just because they believe in the cause.
While Linda often dresses in red, white, and blue, she says politics are not part of the process. She tells the students it doesn’t matter if they support the war or not. What’s important is that they show the troops people care about them, that their service is appreciated, and they haven’t been forgotten here at home.
I know firsthand how important packages are to our troops. I saw a shipment arrive in East Baghdad a few weeks after the war started. We’d never seen the guys so happy and excited. I told Linda this, and her eyes filled with tears.
She is a warm and wonderful woman who should be praised and admired. It was an absolute pleasure to meet her, and I hope her story will inspire others to do what she does, or find other ways to make our troops lives a little bit better.
[Click the video tab in the upper right to watch Leventhal's reports.]
Thanks for a wonderful story of that dear and lovely lady while facing a battle of her own who does so much to bless the troops overseas. I work with the military and see how dedicated these individuals are to serve this great country of ours.
Again, a beautiful story and thank you for reporting it.
Frank (Lynn, MA)
I am one of the lucky people who was on the receiving end of Linda’s generosity. The day FOX went to film her packing boxes many of those were destined for me and my troops here in Baghdad. I have never personally met Linda, I know of her through e-mail and the packages she sends. I know my troops are always amazed when yet another of her boxes rolls in and I pass out the goodies. She truly is a great American and even better person. I am honored to be associated with her and I thank FOX for shining some light on her for her good deeds.
Major, United States Army
MNF-I CIS Coordination Center Iraq
Just read your story about Linda Shearer and what she has done for those serving in the military over here. I live in a town called Greensburg, PA which is about 20 minutes from where the good works of Ms. Shearer are taking place. I’m looking forward to returning home in early Jan but want to say thank you to her and all the people that support us.
— James CMSgt, USAF
This is a very heartwarming story, particularly this time of year. I haven't heard if other schools are doing this, but one would think it would be something nice to do — especially getting the kids involved with something worthwhile.
As usual, looking for your next 'ramble'. Stay safe and happy holidays to you.
— Bob (Bronx, NY)
Again, I say, a beautiful story.
— S. Butts (Ohio)