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Draper youth group hopes to inspire hope and patriotism with letters to new soldiers

By Jasen Lee, KSL | Posted - Sep. 6, 2020 at 8:03 p.m.

DRAPER — For Hubert Huh, the U.S. Army has held a special place in his heart ever since he emigrated from South Korea in his mid-20s. So much so that he enlisted in his early 30s, which is a bit older than most who were in his basic training class. He went on to serve 23 years in the Army, leaving as a sergeant 1st class.

Today, the married father of two sons and a teenage daughter heads up the leadership committee of the Draper Mayor’s Youth Council, of which he is one of four adult advisers. He said the council was developed to help primarily high school-age students who will be the future leaders of the community receive training in leadership and to have opportunities to serve in their local community.

Recently, Huh helped organize an effort that would have 50 members of the youth council hand-write letters to new service members who have taken the oath to defend the nation’s freedom and protect it citizens from domestic and foreign enemies.

“My two sons joined the U.S. Army recently — one in June right after his high school graduation and the other one in July,” Huh said. “I wanted to do something special for them to keep them highly motivated and I suggested our youth council members to do a special project by writing our soldiers.”

He said they usually do field service projects, but now they minimize any outdoor group activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think this is very meaningful that our youth recognize and appreciate our men and women in uniform,” he said. This is the second time the youth council has done a similar project, he added.

About a month ago, they wrote letters of appreciation for firefighters, police officers and other first responders.

“So we thought about writing letters to our servicemen and women in uniform would be special,” Huh said. He noted that he hand-writes letters to both his sons to let them know he is thinking of them and appreciates their struggle.

“I write to them every single day to help them stay motivated. Then, I brought this idea to the council and they liked it so we wrote letters to soldiers,” he said.

The letters will be sent to a new recruits who are enduring the physical and mental challenges required to successfully complete military basic training. While handwriting letters onto paper may seem a little old school for a group of young people born in the 21st century, doing so makes the gesture and the project far more meaningful to some council participants.

“We just really thought it was a great way to be able to show our support for the military, and to show them that we appreciate them,” said Valerie Witzel, 16, a student at Corner Canyon High School in Draper. “It’s just a way for us to get more personal.”

She noted the letters are being composed specifically for new recruits who have only recently joined the military. The project targets “the people who just got out of high school and are now serving our country — thank you from the people who are still in high school and considering that (option).”

Witzel expressed admiration for those who make the decision join the military at such a young age, knowing full well the potential consequences.

“They have incredible bravery. They’re basically still a kid and they’re putting their life on the line for their friends, their family and people they don’t even know,” she said. “That’s just incredible. Seeing that kids who are my age — people who are like my friends — already being able to have the opportunity to do that. It’s just incredible that they would choose to go on and do that after high school.”

Fellow youth council member Anna Page, 16, also a junior at Corner Canyon, said participating in the project was a way to show support for some individuals who may not be able to connect with their family and friends regularly, but can comforted knowing there are others who also care about them and are grateful for their sacrifice.

“I’m really hoping that this this letter increases their compassion for what they’re doing. What they’re doing requires a lot of bravery and time and you just have to be very strong-willed,” Page said. “For us to be able to give them a handwritten letter that really shows our support and our care for them, I really hope that it justifies their decision and makes them feel like what they decided to do was justified and worth it.”

Jasen Lee

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