Assistant Managing Editor
WILBRAHAM Activist and author Pearl S. Buck said, "If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all." How fitting that children at Wilbraham United Church have dedicated the month of April to saluting Army Private Second Class Patrick Lynch who is currently deployed in Iraq, defending the freedoms of those both afar and back home on American soil.
Lynch's ties to Wilbraham United Church predate his existence. His mother Ann has been attending since she was a child, his older sister Sara was married there in 2006, and now his young cousin, Shelly McCracken, is a member. Shelly, in fact, is one of the students in the church's fourth and fifth grade Church School class that is raising money and collecting items to send care packages to Lynch and his company just in time for Lynch's mid-May birthday.
"Pat's supposed to be deployed for 15 months," shared his sister Sara L. Grassetti. "He'll be gone for his twentieth and twenty-first birthday. He's always been interested in the military so we kind of knew this would come some day. Ever since he was young he always talked about joining the military."
Joyce Pierangelo, head of the church school class, said doing something for others has been a continuous focus in the class for years. A good portion of their time has been contributing to the Heifer Project every year. Heifer is designed to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and to care for the earth.
"They decided they wanted [to do something for] Patrick Lynch," Pierangelo said. "We decided that the month of April is our target month. We have sent fliers home, we are raising items and cash. Kids are collecting money at coffee hour. Any donations will go to defray the cost of shipping."
"It's absolutely wonderful," Ann said of what the children are doing for her son. "We are a very close family and Patrick's absence while serving with the Army has left a void here."
Lynch is well-known throughout the community. The 2007 Minnechaug Regional High School graduate was active in various programs and activities throughout his childhood. Besides his involvement in Wilbraham United programs such as church school and youth fellowship, he worked at the Wilbraham Country Club while in high school. He excelled in junior varsity baseball and Minnechaug's golf team he capped off his senior year as captain of that team.
Lynch signed up for the Army right after his high school career ended. He headed to training in Fort Benning, Ga., and was one of six out of more than 200 that was immediately promoted after graduation. From there Lynch was assigned to the 4th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Hood, Texas.
On Easter Sunday, Lynch telephoned his family to inform them that he was deployed to Iraq.
"It was absolutely the hardest time for us because we knew when we said goodbye to him he would be heading into combat," Ann recalled. "This is the hardest thing our family has faced collectively. "On the other hand to have held Patrick back, a son who is so committed to serve his country, would have been a bigger wrong."
Lynch talks to his family whenever he has phone access and they've also developed their own strategy to determine his level of well-being.
"We created some scales of 1-5 [one being bad - five good] so that Patrick can let us know how he's feeling and the approximate level of danger he feels he's been dealing with. Those scales keep us better informed of Patrick's emotional state," Ann said.
Grassetti also designed a blog,http://armypat.blogspot.com, to keep friends and family up-to-date with news about Lynch.
"I try to update it about every week, whenever something new comes across. Whenever he talks to us. He's really interested in what's going on at home," Grassetti said.
There is also a guest book on the site where people can leave well-wishes for Lynch. On a regular basis those messages are printed out and mailed to him.
"Patrick's wish going forward is that at some point when he comes back from Iraq, his brother [Michael] and five other of his closest friends will take a cruise together," Ann said.
In the meantime, the church school class wants Lynch to know how much he is missed, and they are hoping that the public will join in purchasing items or donating funds for the care packages. The fourth and fifth graders are also collecting Beanie Babies for Iraqi children. The long list of items they are collecting include international calling cards for the soldiers to call home, protein bars, sunflower seeds, Band-Aids, new and gently used Beanie Babies, travel size shampoo and toothpaste, baby wipes, magazines, notebooks and more.
Pierangelo said they will also host a bake sale at 11:15 a.m. on April 27 at Wilbraham United Church, 500 Main St.
Ann said she, her husband William, and the rest of their family are grateful to the church for everything. "We are a family of faith and our church has been very important to us. It's amazing the lift it gives us to know that they will help us support Patrick.
"The goal is to have a few boxes head over there just in time for his birthday. Patrick is emotional. Holidays mean the most to him. He's the kind of person who would be sad to not be at a birthday or holiday so this, we feel, will be just the right medicine for him."
For more information on the care package collections contact Joyce Pierangelo at email@example.com.
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