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Make a soldier feel like the hero he or she is
June 29, 2011 - Betsy Bethel
Have you ever felt the urge to approach a veteran, even though you don't know him or her, and say "Thank you"? Maybe it's a graying American Legion color guard member at a parade, or a young soldier in fatigues with a duffel bag over his shoulder at the airport, or another dad or mom at the little league game.
About 10 years ago, I distinctly remember that raw, rich and deep respect for veterans gripping me during a Memorial Day celebration in St. Clairsville. I was playing the pipes for the memorial service. It's hard to explain, but as I sat next to a couple of Belmont County's oldest veterans from World War II, it really hit me what these men did for me — for me, personally.
I am guessing I owe my earlier detachment (which is probably too strong of a word) to having never personally experienced war and never having many family members involved in a war. My grandfather volunteered after Pearl Harbor but nearly lost his arm in a Jeep accident before being deployed. And, right or wrong, I thank God for whatever rock in the road or other distraction occurred to cause that Jeep to veer and flip that day.
As I get older and this wretched war borne of 9-11 wages on, and as I dedicate myself to learning more about America's bloodiest conflicts, from the Revolution to the Civil War to Vietnam, I am brought to tears more often than I care to admit when I lay eyes on a veteran. Sometimes I am too overcome to utter those two words ... Thank you.
I got choked up again the other day after my colleague handed me a press release and a book she received in the mail. She said I might want to feature it in the OV Parent magazine or website. Its goal is to help children learn to recognize the true heroes of our country, and honor those heroes in a very personal way. The book is called "The Original Silent Heroes Autograph Book."
The press release headline reads: "Don't you think that it's time we thank our U.S. military for our freedom?" The book was published by a small family-owned company in Wellington, Fla., called Silent Heroes, and it is just what the title claims, an autograph book. The idea is to use this camo-covered hardbound book to collect the autographs of soldiers you meet at parades, church, the airport or even the grocery store. Remember that Anheuser-Busch commercial from the 2005 Super Bowl that showed the people in the airport clapping for the soldiers? Didn't it give you the chills every time you saw it? I just watched it again and cried ... again. And at the end, just two words are written on the screen: "Thank you."
That commercial was Silent Heroes president and founder Rich Schoenfeld's inspiration for creating this book. What a great project to teach our children about the value of a soldier, and what a great feeling it could give a soldier, to feel that he or she is valued by you and your child.
Another use for the book is to dedicate it to one soldier and fill the book with notes from home, drawings, pictures, etc., like a scrapbook, and then send it to him or her overseas. Further, if a child registers the book online using the serial number, and the soldier who receives it then registers it online, the two become connected and can communicate. These "conversations" are actively monitored; each message and photo is screened and approved by the Silent Heroes staff before being posted because "the protection of privacy and the need for a safe environment for our children in a paramount concern."
The company appears to have thought this project through well. They made sure the book was completely manufactured and packaged in the U.S., including the pen that is included. The cover uses snapshots of actual soldiers to adorn the cover and pages of the book. They even got approval from the U.S. Department of Defense. And the proceeds benefit U.S. military support organizations (to find out which ones or request monetary donations for your group, visit the website).
The company's goal is to "start a revolution, a revolution of showing our gratitude to the people who deserve it the most." I can't think of a better time to share this project with you than on the cusp of the anniversary of our nation's victorious revolution for independence.
The book costs a modest $12.95. There is an original edition and a states edition that has a state watermark on each page so you can get soldiers to sign on the page where they are from. An order of 12 books sells for a discounted $129.95 -- a great project for a scout group, church group or class.
Happy Independence Day! May we NEVER take our freedom for granted.
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This is the cover of "The Original Silent Heroes Autograph Book: States Edition"