SAN ANTONIO -- Kayla Armbruster is proof servant leadership doesn't have an age limit. She's also an example of positive effort, meaningful words and heart.
The 13-year-old was looking for a community service project. Her father, Scott, suggested writing a letter to a veteran.
"I wanted to show my appreciation with veterans," she said. " He had one special veteran in mind. Her name is Mona."
Mona Suarez, a veteran herself, makes afghans for other veterans. That was supposed to be the Kayla's project. She had a larger plan. The Lopez Middle School student sought out the help of former teacher Jennifer Carsten.
"When Kayla talked to me about the project, I said let's go," said Carsten.
With the approval of Principal Eric Wernli, the Dear Veteran project took root. The response was surprising to everyone.
"I thought we were going to get maybe 50 letters," Kayla said. "Certainly, not about 370 letters."
Kayla wasn't the only student who wanted to reward veterans with a rich heartfelt thanks. The letters came from students who drew flags on their correspondence and penned sincere acknowledgement to those who have sacrificed so much for the United States of America.
"The sense of appreciation that each letter held was a little awe-inspiring," said Carsten.
It's an extremely special coincidence for a school named for Master Sergeant Jose Mendoza Lopez. The school's namesake is a Mexican-born United States Army hero. He was awarded a Purple Heart and given the military's highest decoration of valor: The Congressional Medal of Honor. Lopez killed more than one hundred Germans in World War II's Battle of the Bulge on his own.
"Anytime that you have a student that goes beyond what they would normally do speaks to the heart," Wernli said.
Kayla's father, Scott, is passionate about giving veterans their due.
"I honestly believe that we don't give them enough," Scott said.
That's where the Dear Veteran book at Lopez Middle School comes in. There are more than 30 letters in the book that have been mailed to every Fisher House in the nation. Copies have also been mailed to Fisher Houses in Germany and the United Kingdom.
Kayla and her classmates want others to reach out to America's veterans to say thank you. If you need inspiration, click here for more than 300 letters from Lopez Middle School that start off with Dear Veteran and end with thank you.
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