Lesson Plan: Dear friend in the Gulf War

Aim

To encourage youth to write thank you letters to Canadian Veterans who served in the Gulf War.

Objectives

Youth will:

  • learn more about the Gulf War and Canadians efforts overseas;
  • gain an appreciation about the importance of letter writing in times of war and the impact of remembrance and thank you messages; and
  • offer personal thanks to Canadian Gulf War Veterans.

Target audience

This activity is suitable for ages 12 to 18.

Sequence of events and anticipated time frame [60 minutes]

(This activity can be modified to fit available time.)

  • Discussion [10 minutes]
  • Read aloud [15 minutes]
  • Follow-up [15 minutes]
  • Letter writing activity [20 minutes]

Materials

Discussion [10 minutes]

Provide students with a Canadian Armed Forces and the Gulf War historical sheet to read as background information and lead a discussion.

Explain to your students that the Gulf War of the early 1990s is an important chapter in Canada’s military history, and that 2016 marks the 25th Anniversary of the end of the conflict. More than 4,000 Canadian Armed Forces personnel travelled far from home to serve in the tense Persian Gulf region in 1990-91, as part of the international coalition of countries that came together to force the invading forces of Iraq out of neighbouring Kuwait. In the aftermath of the conflict, Canadians continued to serve in peacekeeping and embargo-enforcement efforts in the region.

Explain that during the past 100 years, when Canadians have gone abroad to serve for our country, the correspondence and letters that were sent home helped servicemen and servicewomen vent their emotions and sustain ties with families and friends on the home front. Letters from home to the battlefield have done a similar duty; it was a big boost for the morale!

The Gulf War in the 1990’s was no different; letters were exchanged too. Packages full of letters and small gifts were sent to Canadian Armed Forces member serving in the Gulf War and were even delivered by helicopter to personnel serving on ships!

James Doherty, now a Veteran of the Gulf War, explained that during the war, Canadians serving overseas would spend hours in their free time pouring over bags of letters. He and fellow Canadian military personnel received thousands of letters from Canadian well-wishers.

In fact, James Doherty received one letter that still resonates and inspires him to this day. He carried the letter he received from a young Canadian boy in his pocket the whole time he was deployed and shared that story in a letter to his parents. When he returned home from the Gulf War, he even saved the letter in his photo album.

Read aloud [15 minutes]

Have students read the Dear Mom and Dad and Dear friend handouts.

Follow-up discussion [15 minutes]

Have a follow-up discussion. How would students feel if their family members or friends went that far away to serve in a military conflict? How would they feel if they were the ones receiving those special packages delivered by helicopter? Back then, cellphones were not common, so sending letters and small parcels was the main connection to friends and family back home.

Imagine keeping a letter for over 20 years. Did students ever think that writing a simple message to someone, just like Duane’s letter, could have such a profound impact? Simple words and gestures can mean so much to someone who is missing his or her home and loved ones.

Discuss how letters can offer different perspectives on war. For example, James Doherty’s letter home described different emotions he felt, what he learned about the people he met and the Persian Gulf landscape.

Letter writing activity [20 minutes]

We as Canadians can show honour by recognizing, celebrating and saying thank you to those Canadians who bravely risked their lives to help bring peace to a faraway place.

The Canadian Armed Forces members were excited to receive letters when they were serving in the Persian Gulf region, as students learned through James' message (Dear Mom and Dad letter). Why not send these real-life heroes a personal message of gratitude to tell them that you remember and thank them for what they did 25 years ago?

Instructions

  1. Have students write a thank you letter to a Veteran of the Gulf War on a draft sheet of paper. If you know a Veteran of the Gulf War in your community, the letters could be addressed to the person (Dear…). If you don’t know Veterans who served in the Gulf War, simply start with: Dear Canadian Veteran of the Gulf War.
  2. Encourage students to write a message of appreciation, like simple words to show that they respect the Veterans’ service and sacrifices. If your class feels inspired, poems of gratitude could be written. At the end of their letter, students could also add how they will remember the sacrifices and achievements of the Gulf War Veterans. For example: “I will remember the Veterans of the Gulf War by wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day.” When the draft message is done, distribute writing paper to students.
  3. Collect the letters, review them and bundle letters in a single package. You may provide the name and address of your school or organization and the participating students' grade level(s). Be mindful of not providing personal information about individual students.
  4. Distribute the letters: If you know Veterans in your community who took part in the Gulf War, you might want to contact them and arrange a personal delivery, or invite them at the school. If a personal distribution can’t be arranged and you know the Veterans’ email addresses, you could scan the letters and send them electronically. If you mail the letters, please note that mailing is at the sender’s expense.

If your class wrote letters to an “unknown” Gulf War Veteran, you can mail them to the Persian Gulf Veterans of Canada at:

Persian Gulf Veterans of Canada
15 Roosevelt Avenue
St. John's NL
A1A 4C5

A local Royal Canadian Legion might also be considered as an intermediary to put your class in touch with Gulf War Veterans. Please contact the Legion in your area to inquire.

A variation of this letter writing activity is to send an electronic card to a Gulf War Veteran. To do this, you must know the email address of the Veteran.

Alternatively, if you want to send electronic messages of gratitude to servicemen and servicewomen, and don’t have the recipient’s email, you might consider sending a message to currently serving Canadian Forces members, a program run by the Department of National Defense. Today’s CAF members are tomorrow’s Veterans… Messages from your class might just be the morale booster a currently serving member needs to carry on with a mission.

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