RED LAKE (AP) -- Earlier this month, Red Lake Elementary School students filled little bags with a few spoonfuls of Red Lake soil and a pinch of tobacco for a special blessing.
On Tuesday the 598 children joined with veterans, the Red Lake drum group and representatives of the Army and Red Cross, who will send the children's 2,341 bags of soil and letters to those serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"All of your hearts, all of your love went into those little bags," Arleen Swenson, director of the Red Lake Alternative Elementary Learning Center, told the students.
"Dear American Soldier, Thank you for protecting us. This soil is from the Red Lake Nation," wrote Clarence Leeland Neadeau, a second- grader.
"Dear Soldier, I did this to honor you for what you're doing for us. We say this because we love you people," wrote fourth-grader Fanny.
"I'm so sorry you guys are in this mess," wrote fourth- grader Ashley Lea Lussier. "I wish this could just stop and be over with. My grandpa just died. He was in a war, but guess what ... he made it home."
"I just want to thank you for putting your life in danger for my family and my friends and everyone in our homeland," wrote fifth-grader Victoria Josette Brun. "PS Do you have brown eyes, brown hair and brown skin?"
The drum group sang the tribal flag song, followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Korean War veteran Al Thunder held the Red Lake flag and Army Sgt. Jacob Meyers carried the U.S. flag. They recited the Pledge of Allegiance and the Anishinabe Pledge, which closes with the words: "We are strong. We are proud. We are free. We are Anishinabe."
"Today we celebrate, we honor the armed forces," Superintendent Stuart Desjarlait said. "In Anishinabe society the armed forces, the warrior, is highly respected."
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