They really know how to hurt a Cookie Monster out at Silver Mesa Elementary.

Picture this: piles of cookies, stacks of cookies, gobs and heaps and miles of cookies - about 15,000 cookies, as a matter of fact. And not one for the Cookie Monster.Actually, the Monster (Fred Pehrson under a big pile of blue fur) was making the supreme sacrifice Friday, restraining his cookie-gobbling instincts on behalf of American servicemen and servicewomen assigned to duty in Saudi Arabia.

"Dis is so wunnerful," Monster exulted in a really fine imitation of the Sesame Street character. "I count 600 million cookies. But they not for me. Today, I sacrifice for the boys in Saudi Arabia."

Not 600 million maybe, but by the time Silver Mesa students from kindergarten through sixth grade had added their contributions to the cookie pile, it was enough to keep PTA workers and older students busy wrapping them individually and packing them in plastic containers for their trip halfway around the world. Boxes stacked upon boxes in the school's cafeteria, and the good smells wafted out into hallways and classrooms. In a practical afterthought, the cookie containers were lined with toilet tissue, a commodity in short supply in the Persian Gulf, said Principal Bruce R. Barnson. Small packets of sweet drink mixes also were tucked into empty spaces.

Each package contained a letter from a student. Some of them were addressed to "Dear Hero," or more generically, "Dear Person." Each expressed support for the American soldiers biding their time in the Persian Gulf heat awaiting the development of events in a tense standoff.

Chelsea Nelson had added a small picture of herself to her plate of cinnamon-sprinkled Snickerdoodles (anything such as chocolate chips that would sog down in the desert heat was discouraged).

"I hope someone will write back," she said.

"I just said, `How are you? I bet you're hot,' " said Nicole Nelford.

The school's older classes have been learning about the events in the Middle East, said Barnson. "And we've encouraged parents of the younger children to talk with them at home." When a kindergarten child came to school with the name "Saddam Hussein" on the tip of his tongue, Barnson assumed many families were doing so.

A group of older children defended the involvement of the United States in the difficulty between Iraq and Kuwait. "They (Saudi Arabia) needed our help because they don't have as many soldiers," said an astute young lady.

The Air Force will help get the Utah cookies to Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, and from there they will be airlifted to Europe, then across the Mediterranean to their final destination.

As for Silver Mesa's "Cookie Monster" (whose fifth-grader, Brennen, was one of the contributors to the project), he's consoled himself. "Next time, they be for me," he said.