San Antonio girl inspires others to send letters to veterans around the world

Kayla Armbruster thanks vets through service project, receives Challenge Coin

By Concetta Callahan - Anchor/Reporter

With a little help from her dad, a San Antonio girl is making an impact on veterans around the globe.

Kayla Armbruster is an eighth-grader at Lopez Middle School in the Stone Oak area on the North Side. The 13-year-old has been tasked with a community service project.

But don't let her young age fool you. She is already growing throughout the process, learning to never underestimate the generosity of others. A simple question to her dad turned into something bigger than she could have ever imagined.

When Kayla's dad suggested she write a letter to a veteran for her service project, the model student took it to a whole new level and set out to get as many letters as she could.

"I asked Mrs. Carsten, one of my teachers, to see if she could ask some of her students and ask some teachers to ask their students to write a letter to the veteran," Kayla said.

Things took off from there. Before she knew it, Kayla had hundreds of letters.

Out of the 370 letters, only 34 made it into a very special book that has been shipped off to all 53 Fisher Houses around the world.

Fisher Houses are like "Ronald McDonald houses, but for veteran’s families who can stay while the veterans are healing," Kayla explained.

Heartfelt messages were inside the the book of letters.

"Thank you for your service. I’m glad that you fought for our country and risked your life for America’s freedom,” Kayla read from one letter.

"You are my hero because I am also a military brat. My dad has been deployed," another letter said.

"Middle school years aren't always the easiest, so to hear what they had to say and their genuine sense of appreciation, that part, I think, surprised me," said Jennifer Carsten, an English teacher at Lopez Middle School.

Appreciation for veterans runs strong through campus. The school's namesake, Jose Lopez, has a rich military background.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service during the Battle of the Bulge.

Kayla received a surprise no one saw coming — a hand written letter from the Milwaukee VA Fisher House.

“Thank you for your kind letters and pictures expressing appreciation to our nation's veterans," Kayla’s dad read from the letter that awarded Kayla a Challenge Coin, which is something rarely given to civilians. Kayla turned it over to the principal to forever be on display.

"Thank you very much. You’ve done so much for our school and the veterans especially. And I’m very proud of you," said Eric Wernly, the principal at Lopez Middle School.

The coin will serve as a reminder to students to lead by example.

"It really shows that you have to be committed to something to make it work," Kayla said.

To read 370 all of the "Dear Veteran" letters the children put together, visit dearveteran.soundpillow.com

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