PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) Mass Communication Specialist Second Class, Clyde Laster served four years on the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) before being stationed at Naval Support Activity Panama City.
The ship is based in Norfolk, Virginia.
Tragic news hit Laster this week when he learned three sailors on the ship completed suicide in the last two weeks.
The news was announced on the ship’s Facebook page on September 23.
Laster says he wanted to find a way to bring encouragement and comfort to his shipmates.
He also serves as a mentor at Patronis Elementary School and wanted to include the students in his efforts.
On Friday, third, fourth and fifth-grade students spent their morning putting pencil to paper, writing letters to send north.
“When I was deployed, one of the things that were really awesome was people supporting us that we didn’t know. Strangers. We had people from different states, countries sending us letters but the things from kids were always the most impactful,” Clyde said.
News 13 spoke to many students during their project.
“I told them they were very brave and I told them thank you for doing what they do,” said fourth-grader, Lizzy Bradley.
“Thank you for protecting our country. I appreciate you serving us,” said third-grader, Claire Skaugstad.
“It might not make them feel completely happy again but it might make them feel encouraged to move past it,” said fourth-grader Alaney Procter.
“Just stay strong and that it’ll all be okay,” said Hannah Bean, a fifth-grade student.
Laster says his goal for the day was to not only lift-up the spirits of the sailors in Virginia but to also spark conversations.
“If you need help, talk to people. Just because I wear this uniform doesn’t mean I don’t have emotions,” Laster said.