Natchez High students writing letters to former Iraq hostage Hamill

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 20, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Coach Talya Huntley’s ninth-grade Learning Strategies classes spent Tuesday drafting letters they will send to Thomas Hamill on Friday, congratulating him on his safe return from Iraq.

Hamill was captured in Iraq on April 9 and escaped three weeks later. Huntley’s class will also make a video congratulating Hamill on his safe return to his home in Macon.

Huntley’s students spent their class time on Tuesday working on the initial draft of their letters. They took the first 15 minutes of class writing the letters.

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Throughout the remainder of the class, the students traded papers with their neighbors and read them aloud in class to check for any errors that they may have had.

As each student read his or her neighbors letter aloud, the other students listened in while making corrections or additions to their drafts.

The majority of the students’ letters contained congratulatory remarks on Hamill’s safe return home and notes that both he and his family were in their prayers.

Several students, however, had questions that they wanted to ask Hamill about himself and what he went through in Iraq.

In their letters, a few students asked if Hamill and his family could visit the high school and talk to him about his experiences both in Iraq and at home.

Courtney Williams, a ninth-grade student in Huntley’s class, indicated in her letter to Hamill her thoughts on his bravery and also her hopes that he would have a full recovery.

&uot;I think that you are a very brave and courageous man,&uot; Williams wrote.

Many of the students felt like the idea to write Hamill was a good learning experience.

Henry Morgan, another ninth-grader in Huntley’s third period class, felt like the overall project was a good idea.

&uot;It was really interesting to write a letter to someone that we had never met before,&uot; Morgan said.

Ninth-grade student Chad Smith wanted in his letter to give Hamill the sense that he was really at home and to make him feel like he was part of an extended family.

In his letter, Smith wrote:

&uot;I know you don’t want to be referred to as a hero but for someone that probably had to endure such a frightening situation, I find it adequate to say that you are a survivor.&uot;

Huntley said that she wanted her students to write to Hamill because of the opportunity that it presented for her classes and to praise him for his accomplishment.

&uot;I wanted to do something fun for them,&uot; Huntley said.

She also said it was an opportunity to put Natchez High School on the map on a positive note as far as being educational.

&uot;It’s just an opportunity for the students to explore their horizons,&uot; Huntley said.

&uot;I wanted to give them a chance to write a serious letter.&uot;

Huntley’s classes spent their time on Wednesday making a video that they will send to Hamill along with their letters.

Huntley obtained permission from Building-Level Principal James Loftin for her students to write Hamill.

Hamill was captured when his convoy was ambushed on April 9.

He injured his arm in the ambush and was operated on by his kidnappers. After three weeks, Hamill escaped his captors on May 2. He returned home in Macon on May 8.