MORRILL, Maine — These days, Tyler Streit is a captain in the U.S. Air Force, flying secret missions in Afghanistan. But more than 20 years ago, he was a kindergartner at the Gladys Weymouth School in this small rural town west of Belfast.
This month, children at the K-2 school are reminding Streit of his time in Maine and trying to cheer him with cards and drawings.
On Monday morning, reading instructor Bonnie Maguire helped kindergarten children brainstorm ideas about what they might write about in their notes to Streit. To get them started, she showed the 1989-1990 class photo that included Streit and Maguire, who was his kindergarten teacher that year. Streit is wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt in the photo. Maguire also showed the children images of Streit as a teen and young man.
The children, from Mrs. Norris’ and Mrs. Olson’s kindergarten classes, gathered in the very room where Streit was a kindergartner.
“I remember Tyler well,” Maguire said before school began, “because Linda [his mother] volunteered that year in my class. He was such a cutie.”
The Streits lived in Morrill while Tyler’s father, Jim Streit, worked as publisher of weekly newspapers in the area.
The school took on the letter-writing project after Jim Streit contacted Maguire about the connection.
“We decided as a staff to take on this project,” she said, with the letter-writing beginning a month ago. “Each week a different class is writing letters and sending pictures.”
Maguire showed some of the cards that are ready to be mailed. One reads, “Dear Tyler – My Brothers name is Tyler. It is relly sunny and hot. Do you miss yor family?” Another: “I hope you are okay. My birthday is in February. I have a twwin brother. I have a dog do you. Love, Kara.” And still another: “What does Afghanistan look like? How high do you fly? Love, Kaitlyn.”
They all feature crayon drawings showing moose, flowers, airplanes and the school building.
Maguire said the children seemed to know about the war and didn’t need it explained to them. Several recounted how their cousins, siblings or other family members are in military service. The second-graders were interested in finding Afghanistan on the map, she said. They also asked about the time difference.
The school plans to produce a video of the children singing a school-composed song for Streit and staffers plan on raising funds to send a package of gifts to him.
Streit’s father, in an email to Maguire, reported that his son arrived in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day and, because he volunteered to serve another tour, will be in the country until August. He is stationed in Kandahar and lives in a tent, though it has electricity and Internet connectivity. He was appointed to the Air Force Academy by then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware and graduated in 2007.
“Tyler treasures his four years in Maine, very formative ones,” his father noted in the email. The family left the state in 1992.
Maguire, who is retiring next month after 39 years in the school district, said she saw Streit when the family visited Maine several years ago on a vacation. He was 17 or 18 at the time, she recalled.
In an email, his father said that “Tyler has told his mother and me that he was very touched after receiving the first packet of messages from Waldo County and by the attention the students there have placed on his work overseas.”
Streit responded to students with a letter answering their questions, his father reported.