First- and second-grade students at Anderson School in Bozeman watched over the Internet on Tuesday as U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Tim Steffan opened their gift in Bahrain.

“So, this is the package you all sent to me,” Steffan said, holding a large white box up to his computer's camera. “I haven't opened it yet. Should I go ahead and open it?”

“Yes!” the students yelled back.

Steffan's niece, Karly Jordan, is in the class. She and about 10 of her classmates sat in front of a computer and projector screen so they could see Steffan and he could see them, via the video calling service Skype.

The students packed Steffan's gift as part of the Adopt A Sox program, which sends “Christmas stockings” to members of the armed forces who are deployed or stationed overseas. Each recipient is from Montana or has ties to the state, and each gift contains a little piece of the Big Sky.

Steffan's box held a photo of his niece preparing the gift with her class, as well as handwritten letters from the students.

Adopt A Sox packed and shipped 320 gift boxes this holiday season, organizer Margie Kankrlik said.

It's important that service members “know that the people back home still care,” she said.

Military contacts submit names, and local people nominate service members to receive packages, which are filled with items donated by Gallatin Valley businesses.

The boxes contained items such as books, playing cards, magazines, handknit hats, footballs and beef jerky. Kenyon Noble donated 1,000 packages of jerky this year. Local volunteers also contributed handmade gifts, and children wrote letters and draw pictures to include.

“So, the guys from Montana are really popular when the box comes,” said Adopt A Sox volunteer Wayne Johnson.

After Steffan opened his gift Tuesday, Karly and her classmates asked him questions about Bahrain, an island off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.

“Do you have a Christmas tree? Does fruit grow there? Do you have mangoes?” the kids asked.

Steffan told the kids it was about 8 p.m. there while it was about 11 a.m. in Montana. The temperature had been in the 70s and 80s that day, and yes, they grow some fruit, such as pomegranates, apricots and dates.

Adopt A Sox has organized video calls for the classes of three Anderson School students who have ties to overseas servicemen and servicewomen.

Today, Army National Guard Spc. Troy Merriman will connect via Skype with the school from his duty station in Kuwait. On Friday, students will Skype with U.S. Army Pfc. Tanner Thompson who is stationed in Vicenza, Italy.

Amanda Ricker can be reached at aricker@dailychronicle.com. She is on Twitter @amandaricker.

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