Ryan Elder, a fourth grader at Wiley Elementary School in Shelby Township, hugs his cousin,  Cpl. Jacquelyn Guarnieri, as she surprises him and his class with a visit on Veterans Day. The class  had written letters to Guarnieri while she was overseas working as a mechanic in the Army.

Ryan Elder, a fourth grader at Wiley Elementary School in Shelby Township, hugs his cousin, Cpl. Jacquelyn Guarnieri, as she surprises him and his class with a visit on Veterans Day. The class had written letters to Guarnieri while she was overseas working as a mechanic in the Army.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Soldier who students wrote letters to visits them on Veterans Day

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published November 18, 2019

 Ryan Elder holds a letter that he wrote to his cousin, Cpl. Jacquelyn Guarnieri.

Ryan Elder holds a letter that he wrote to his cousin, Cpl. Jacquelyn Guarnieri.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Jacquelyn Guarnieri shares photos and videos of her Army experiences with her cousin, Ryan Elder, and his fourth grade class Nov. 11.

Jacquelyn Guarnieri shares photos and videos of her Army experiences with her cousin, Ryan Elder, and his fourth grade class Nov. 11.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — A classroom at a school in Shelby Township received a surprise visit from a soldier on Veterans Day.

Students at Wiley Elementary School were surprised to meet a soldier to whom they had written letters and who had been overseas for nine months.

In September, the students each wrote a letter through a company, Esys Automation, that packs “Miracle Boxes,” or care packages, to be sent to soldiers.

The letters were sent to Cpl. Jacquelyn Guarnieri, from Goodells, Michigan, near Port Huron, who is the cousin of Ryan Elder, a student in Edward Fromm’s fourth grade class at Wiley.

In the letters, the children wrote about four to five sentences with questions.

Guarnieri is a mechanic in the Army who works on vehicles when they break down. She had also recently been promoted to corporal.

“My battalion had told me we couldn’t receive mail anymore, and I was pretty tickled that Ryan had thought of me, and his class, and I said, ‘You know what? Send it anyway. If it doesn’t (make it), or if it does, fantastic,’” she said.

She said that the care packages contain all sorts of things for soldiers, from candy to nail clippers.

“I came back from being in the field, and they’re like, ‘You got a mail package.’ And I was like, ‘What? When?’ I didn’t think the kids’ packages would make it, and yet there were two little boxes sitting on the bunk. Man, that was fast. So I opened it and found your little letters,” Guarnieri said.

Guarnieri said she had only been home for six days when she stopped by to meet the children in person on Veterans Day.

“It’s not only for those currently serving, but also those who have served in previous wars, because it’s a day that is important to recognize all their hard work,” she said of Veterans Day.

She said that she was in a little town in Poland last month when she received the letters. She had been there since April.

“I thought it was awesome, because people told us that there’s care packages, and I’m like, ‘All right, cool.’ Then Ryan had told me that his class wanted to send me stuff, and I wasn’t expecting them, so I saw them sitting on my bunk and, ‘Oh my goodness, this is the stuff Ryan and his class sent me.’ And it was just awesome. I’m so overjoyed and grateful for those guys thinking of us, and him too.”

Guarnieri said she thought it was a good opportunity for the kids to meet a real soldier.

“For them to actually get to see what they did for somebody I think speaks volumes,” she said.

The students were able to listen to her stories and ask questions.

Some students asked what she ate and what it was like being a soldier.

She explained that being a soldier isn’t only what they see on TV; in her job, she goes out and fixes the vehicles.

Kaleb Stolzenfeld, who is from Utica, said he was surprised that Guarnieri came to see them.

“It was surprising and cool that a soldier we wrote letters to came to our school,” he said.

Student Gianna Ligocki, of Shelby Township, enjoyed the opportunity.

“I thought it was really cool that we wrote the letters, and really cool that the soldier came to see us. This was the first time that a soldier has come to visit,” she said.

Elder’s mom, Dena Elder, who is Guarnieri’s aunt, came along to the visit and said that it filled her heart with joy to have her son be part of a special thing for soldiers overseas.

“How special it was to have Jacquelyn surprise not only Ryan, but the entire class that wrote letters, and to come back on Veterans Day was special for Jacquelyn and the kids. Watching her share stories and pictures about what she does made me feel so proud to be her aunt,” she said.

Guarnieri said it meant a lot that the school allowed the children and her to meet, and that the school staff helped to keep it a surprise.

“I was just really shocked how it all worked out. I would just like to emphasize the meaning it has to me that they did this on Veterans Day, because it’s not (a holiday) they (the school) get off.”

Guarnieri also visited students at Utica High School and Eppler Junior High on Veterans Day.

She said she plans to continue her service now that she has been promoted, and to see where it takes her.