Two continents and an ocean away from Scud missiles and the threat of ground war, Matina Muniz's life is filled with high school concerns: pop quizzes, English papers, what to do on a Friday night. But, like a lot of high school students these days, Matina is being encouraged to think beyond the comfort and anxieties of her own world.
So on a recent afternoon, she and her friends sat in the Highland High School library and composed letters to soldiers they've never met."I pray that this situation is resolved as soon and as peacefully as possible," wrote Matina.
The letters are part of Operation Heart to Heart, sponsored by the Mayor's Youth Volunteer Council, made up of students from East, West, Highland and Judge Memorial high schools.
Operation Heart to Heart also included a Moment of Silence on Valentine's Day. In addition, individual high schools are exploring projects to help Utah families with relatives in Operation Desert Storm.
The letter-writing campaign is aimed at both boosting the morale of soldiers in the Persian Gulf and encouraging voluntarism among students.
Highland High junior Amy Earl wrote about how "people up here are thinking of them." Sophomore Sam Behunin's letter stressed "how everybody's supporting them."
While most students addressed their letter simply "Dear friend," Highland sophomore Jonathan Olsen addressed his "Dear Nick." Jonathan's 22-year-old brother is stationed on a ship off the coast of Oman. At the Olsen house, Nick's family has tied yellow ribbons around everything from the trees to the bedposts, says Jonathan.
Highland senior Greg Johnson felt another kind of tie to the soldiers in the gulf. Greg, who joined the Army Reserves last October, wears his dog tags to school and carries a copy of his orders in his wallet.
Dressed in his camouflage jacket, Greg composed this letter to an anonymous compatriot: "Dear Soldier: I am very supportive and I joined, like you, to serve my country and show my love for this country. I can't tell you how much I admire you for being so willing to go and fight for other countries in the world who can't defend themselves due to less economic and military support."
The letters will be sent to Utah units in the gulf, and, to not add more stress to an already strained postal system, will be mailed in bundles.
Operation Heart to Heart is the second citywide project sponsored by the newly formed Youth Volunteer Council, a joint venture between the Salt Lake City mayor's office and the University of Utah's Lowell Bennion Community Service Center. The volunteer council also plans a "senior prom" for senior citizens this spring.