Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Patriotism in Scouts!

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."

President George Washington

This quote resonates within me and is why I get dressed in full uniform each and every year for my daughters' school Veteran Day Programs.  As a former Captain in the U.S. Air Force, it is important to me to let the boys and girls and my scouts see that women can play a vital role in our military.  Patriotism is learned.  Children are not born with a sense of appreciation for our country and the military that works so hard to defend our freedoms.  Some parents have mixed feelings about encouraging their daughters to enlist in the military, but that is never my goal to promote enlistment.  I merely want girls to understand that women serve key roles in the military and their service and contributions are invaluable.

With this in mind each and every year my troops do several things to honor our military service members.  First and foremost, we collect left-over and unwanted Halloween candy as a service project and send it to our military troops serving overseas.  Our candy drive begins the day after Halloween and continues for one week.  Over the past 6 years, this project has grown to the point parents remind me about the program every year.  Parents look forward to removing the candy from their home and it makes them feel good knowing the candy will go to our U.S. Soldiers overseas.  Next, the girls create hand-made "Thank-You" cards for the soldiers and include them in the boxes they pack for the troops.  We set aside money each year to send the boxes and we ask local businesses to help us pay for shipping.  Last year we collected 439 pounds of candy and with each year we collect more.  We can stuff about 17-18 pounds of candy in 1 Large Flat Rate box and when I order on-line with USPS it costs us $13.30 to ship to an APO address.  A quick math assessment indicates this project can add up quickly.  Having large GS troops is beneficial in this case because my parents are more than willing to ship one box and this helps with expenses as well.

Also I love to brag about the Green Beans Coffee Company!  They have an amazing program called a "Cup of Joe".  This program allows you to provide a service member on deployment with a cup of coffee AND a personal message for a mere $2.00.
What's even more amazing about the program is that I almost always receive a response back from the soldier I sent a cup of coffee too, often in 24 to 48 hours!!!
For this reason,  the Cup of Joe program is a great way for your Girl Scout to write a letter to a soldier and not only get heard, but receive a personal letter from a soldier.  This small act of kindness can relate to so many badges.  My girls were astounded by the responses and found it enlightening that at their age they could do something to make a soldiers day a little brighter, offer their gratitude and know that their actions made a difference 8000 miles away and half way around the world.  I cannot emphasize enough, what a fabulous program and experience this was for my Brownies.  
The only down-side from a leader's standpoint is that this program works via the internet.  My girl's hand wrote their letters and then I typed them into the computer, just as written spelling errors and all.  I had parent volunteers help me by e-mailing some of the letters and then I just copied and pasted the information.  

I hope every troop will consider taking part in this kind act.  I know it will be every bit as rewarding for you, as it has been for me.  I encourage you to share your experiences as well.

One letter written by Catherine in my troop received a "Special Note" that made both my co-leader and I cry.  This is truly what Girl Scouts and Cup of Joe is all about:

Good afternoon Ma'am,

My name is Sgt Sarah A, and I am a US Marine currently deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  I just received a 'Cup of Joe' from Catherine in Girl Scout Troop #4005, and I'm sure the other young ladies in her troop have sent 'Cups of Joe' to other service members who are deployed. I sent a thank you through the Green Beans website, but wanted to make sure the girls of the troop knew how much their actions are appreciated by all of the service members.

As a young lady I was a Girl Scout myself, and now I work with Afghan women, empowering them to participate in the peace process and bring change to their community. If there is any way possible, I would love to send the girls of Troop #4005 some photos of the ladies I work with and myself. If there is any one that I could contact to do so, and to make sure the girls know how appreciated they are, I can be reached at my personal email.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to read this email and help out.  I gained so much from being a Girl Scout and would like these young ladies to know how special they are and how much potential they hold.


Sgt Sarah A
C-3 FECC APRP, Women’s Outreach LNO

And Sarah's response to Catherine:
Dear Catherine, Thank you so very much for your support! I was also a Brownie when I was your age and loved it. Eight is a very special age, you are growing up so fast. Never forget to believe in yourself and all of the amazing and wonderful things you are capable of. Young ladies like you and all of the girls in your Troop make me so proud to serve our country. Here in Afghanistan, young ladies usually can not even go to school, because it is so dangerous. I'm happy that America is such a safe and free country, and we are able to do so many wonderful things while we are growing up. It makes all of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines feel very special when people at home show us that they are thinking about us. We are very proud to serve and protect our country, and preserve the freedom we have that is so wonderful. Your kindness made my day here in Afghanistan. Thank you, your family and Troop #4005 so much for supporting us and thinking of us! Semper fidelis, Sgt Sarah A, United States Marine Corps

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