Students pay homage to World War II veteran on his birthday

February 25, 2019

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) — Eisenhower Elementary students want to ensure a Marlow World War II veteran receives plenty of cards for his birthday.

Recil Troxel will turn 93 years-old on April 17 and he asked for nothing more on his birthday than as many birthday cards as he could receive. A World War II veteran who fought in the Philippines and Saipan and served as a combat engineer in the Army, Troxel now battles a new enemy — cancer.

So when Joslyn Wood, a physical education teacher at Eisenhower Elementary, heard Troxel’s story from her brother, she decided to do her part to fulfill his sole birthday wish.

“I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to teach my students two important things in life,” Wood said to The Lawton Constitution. “One, always be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Two, kindness is doing something for someone and expecting nothing in return.”

On a recent Wednesday, instead of playing basketball, bowling or doing any number of physical activities, the more than 300 students of Eisenhower Elementary spent their physical education time drawing birthday cards. They used construction paper and crayons to create around 350 cards that Wood hopes to start mailing by the end of this week.

“Some of my students have asked if they can do two or more,” she said. “One student asked if they could do seven or eight. I’m going to gather the cards up and hopefully, daily, be able to put some in the mail. So the gentleman will receive cards each day between now and April 17, almost daily from Eisenhower Elementary.”

Wood didn’t hold back in her description of Troxel to her students. She told them about how he’s 92 years-old and battling cancer, which is not an easy fight to win. He’s lonely and looks to mail to bring happiness.

“He sits in front of the window waiting for the mail to arrive,” Wood recalled telling the students. “Very rarely does he receive mail. So we’re going to do something special for him. We’re going to make him birthday cards.”

Cancer and aging is sometimes a difficult concept for young children to grasp, but Wood said she was proud of how all of her students accepted their new task Wednesday.

“It’s really excited to see them working,” she said. “My students are on board with it. They’re excited. Again, you can see the sparkle in their eye when we talk about. A couple of students were in tears. It’s just a positive thing.”

Daniella Veracruz, a second grade student, was hard at work on her birthday card with friend Anilia Truehitt. The two were happy they were making a difference in a man’s life — even if it’s someone they’ve never met.

“We’re making these cards because he’s lonely,” Veracruz said. “It was kind of sad.”

Truehitt was excited to send her card and said she hopes Troxel finds joy in reading what she wrote.

“I like making other people happy,” she said. “That’s what I want.”

Wood is glad that her students have taken to the project so well and have shown such enthusiasm for wanting to help a total stranger. It’s not physical exercise, but it still helps them grow as individuals and members of society.

“I want my students to do this because it just helps build character,” she said. “It helps instill integrity. I think being a teacher is more than just teaching physical education or subjects. I think it’s important to instill certain morals and values to students. I feel this is one of those teachable moments we need to capture.”


Information from: The Lawton Constitution, http://www.swoknews.com