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Susquehanna Students Honor Fallen Soldiers in Holiday Contest

Published on December 12, 2012

Two Susquehanna University students used their residence hall’s annual holiday door decorating contest to honor fallen American service members. First-year students Sarah Polinski and Michaela Feltman, of Sayre and McAlisterville, respectively, wrote the names of every soldier killed in Afghanistan this year on stars and attached them to a blue-sky background.Holiday door decorating contest They not only won the competition; their project received more than 3,000 likes and more than 570 shares on Facebook after the students posted it on the page for “The Ellen Degeneres Show.”

The design, with the message “Sleep in Heavenly Peace,” comprises more than 280 stars, including separate, gold shooting stars to represent the fallen soldiers of college age. The students found the service members’ names using an online database published by USA Today. On Facebook, they asked TV host Ellen Degeneres to alert fallen heroes’ families to the project, to assure them they are not forgotten. From Facebook sharing alone, Polinski has already heard from the grateful mother of one 20-year-old-soldier killed this past August, represented by a gold star on her door.

Polinski’s inspiration came from two grandfathers, a father and four uncles who are veterans. Her father, Daniel Polinski, has served in the Vietnam War, Gulf War and War on Terror, earning a Purple Heart, Green Beret, Bronze Star and several campaign medals for his bravery. Her grandfather, John Polinski Jr., who died earlier this year at age 94, lost his leg in Italy while serving in World War II.

“Though my boots aren't on the ground in Afghanistan, I do have the opportunity to make a difference on American soil by honoring the freedom that the soldiers on my door died for,” Polinski said. “Writing the names on each star was overwhelming, but to see the support from currently [more than 3,000] people liking our picture on Facebook is just powerful.”

The door decoration was initially Polinski’s idea, but roommate Feltman, along with first-year students Caitlyn Dixon and Brian Boeshore, of Spruce Creek and New Cumberland, respectively, helped to bring the concept to life.

“As an RA, I was incredibly touched to see this creation,” said Marni Maxwell Horton, a junior from Sherburne, N.Y., and the students’ resident assistant. “I never expected a simple hall program to be such an inspiration to a group of students.”

“I still struggle with the pain of [my grandfather’s] loss,” Polinski said. “I decided that I needed to put my grief into positive action. The rest, as they say, is history.”

View and share the fallen heroes project on Facebook. 


Karen M. Jones

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