Early last summer while traveling home to Dallas from Washington DC, I had the pleasure of meeting two servicemen in the Airport . They were both in the US Air Force. Lt. Colonel Raymond (Rusty) Bradshaw and Captain Erik Hofmeyer of the 442nd Air Expeditionary Squadron in Baghdad, Iraq. They let me know that they were shipping off to Baghdad and that I had just bought them their last beer in the states. I teared up, gave them both hugs and thanked them for their service. A few minutes later, they came back with their wives on FaceTime and introduced me to their families. They were both leaving wives and kids to go and serve our country and protect our freedoms. It definitely put a face on the magnitude of what they were sacrificing for those of us back home!
I found Lt. Colonel Bradshaw (Rusty) on FaceBook and connected with him. We sent messages back and forth to update on their safety. They are busy working hard and missing home. I asked if there was anything they needed. He humbly said that he did not need anything, but that many of his men and women were in rather austere locations and could benefit from some supplies.
He sent the following list of the most needed items:
- Jerky (all kinds)
- Baby Wipes
- iTunes gift cards (these are a big hit)
- PT Socks (white or black athletic socks, crew length or ankle length)
- First Aid Kits
- Gatorade packets or bottled water
- AA and AAA batteries
- Sunflower Seeds
- 3M hanging hooks
- Bars of Soap (Yardleys)
- DVD Movies (new or used)
As soon as he sent the list, I just knew that the Sting TLC 04 Diaz girls would jump in to help. An email was sent to the team through Team Snap asking the them to be in charge of collecting donations to send over. The girls were also asked to include a personal card/note thanking these men and women for their service.
The response from the team was overwhelming! We collected, packed, and shipped over 150 pounds of donations, $200 in iTunes gift cards, precious notes and handmade cards and team photos showing support. The girls made sure to get everything on the list…from socks to BandAids. In addition, the Kind Company added to our shipment with 200+ Kind Bars and Frisco Wholesale Lumber covered the $250 in shipping costs to get the packages to our newly adopted service men and women.
The boxes were inventoried for customs, packed and shipped in mid September. We had no idea how long it would take to get to our soldiers, or what their circumstances would be at the time of arrival. We let Lt. Colonel Bradshaw know that the packages were on the way…using FaceBook Messenger to communicate, he was able to send us photos of his men and women as they were serving and give us updates on their safety.
In early October news broke of tragic activity in the area of Iraq where our newly adopted soldiers were stationed. We feared and prayed for their safety, but couldn’t connect via FaceBook for an update. We finally heard from Major Bradshaw. They indeed had been involved in the attacks and sadly lost several of their men. When they arrived back at the base, our packages had arrived. I received the following from Major Bradshaw:
“Hi Michelle! Tell the girls we have some very happy Airmen in Iraq…we had a rough week but then your packages showed up! I’ll take pictures for y’all.”
He sent photos of the Airmen and Women opening boxes and cheering. It was incredible to see that the girls efforts…the cards, notes, donations brought so much joy to these men and women when they really needed it. God’s Timing…
In November I received a package addressed to the Sting 04 Girls. Inside was a letter from Major Bradshaw expressing appreciation for their “hard work and exceptional gesture of good will”. The package also contained a thank you gift for each of the girls…An Air Force Commanders Coin, presented by the Commander for Superior Performance. The letter also articulated to the girls just how impactful their generosity and kindness was for the men and women serving this country. He made sure that they understood that their efforts, service, and teamwork made a difference and the value of teamwork. He stated:
“Your timing was impeccable…we had a very hard week because we lost a few soldiers on the battle field. We were trying to bounce back as a team because all we have out here are our teammates. Much like your soccer team, we hang out together, train together, eat together, fight together, and continue to try to get bet
ter at our craft. Each and every member of our team is important and we never ever leave a teammate behind.”
The girls were presented their coins and a copy of the letter at our team Christmas party and were able to see the pictures and hear the story of how small acts of kindness make a difference. They learned that even the smallest gestures of collecting socks and treats for soldiers can make an impactful difference. They learned the importance of service and the power of teamwork!
Lt. Colonel Bradshaw and Captain Hofmeyer have completed their tour in Iraq and are safely back home with their families (as of January). We continue to keep in touch and stay updated on our adopted troops still in Iraq. Rusty has provided me the name and contact information for the new Commanding Officer and the plan is to send another round of care packages to our adopted military family in the spring.