View Full Version : Bear messages aid coping with soldier parents

12-16-07, 07:25 AM
Bear messages aid coping with soldier parents
By Candy Neal - The Herald
Posted : Saturday Dec 15, 2007 8:25:11 EST

JASPER, Ind. — Spc. Kirk Brown was eager to record personal messages for his four sons.

Each 15-second message will be imbedded into its own teddy bear and given to his children.

When they squeeze the bears, they will hear Brown’s loving words for them.

“It was hard to do, though,” said Brown, of Huntingburg, after he finished his recordings. “How do you do it without getting tears in your eyes? How do you say all you want to say, let them know that you love them, in 15 seconds?”

But he appreciates the effort to help soldiers leave a part of themselves with their families as they go serve their country.

As a member of the Indiana National Guard 1st Battalion, 151st Infantry, Brown will leave for Camp Atterbury, in Edinburgh, to get ready for his yearlong tour in Iraq.

“I told my two youngest that I love them and miss them, and I want them to send me as many letters as they can,” Brown said of sons, Tristan and Tanner.

His son Austin takes honors classes, so Brown’s message refers to that as well.

“I told him how proud I am of him and to keep up the good work.”

Damon Mills, Brown’s 17-year-old stepson, recently enlisted in the National Guard. Brown recorded a message for him also.

“I told him I was proud, of him and I know he will do a fine job being the man of the house.”

As of Wednesday, 145 soldiers made 220 recordings at the Indiana National Guard armories in Jasper and Tell City. The Optimist Club provided the mini recorders soldiers used.

The recordings will be sent to Operation Voices and Love, a Nebraska organization that creates the talking bears. When the bears are ready, an OFS Brands truck will pick them up and bring them back to Indiana. The Optimist Club plans to distribute the bears in February or March.

Helping children is one of the Optimist’s missions, and this project fits right into that, Jasper Optimist President Jay Baker said.

“It’s a tremendous idea,” he said. “If we can, we want to put a smile on the children’s faces.”

“Imagine if you’re a kid and Mom or Dad is gone for a week. That’s tough,” said Ryan Ruxer, who was among seven Optimist volunteers at the Jasper armory. “Then imagine if that parent is gone for a year.”

Capt. Jesse Smith, company commander, recorded a message for his daughter, Lilly, whom he and his wife adopted from Ukraine. They brought the 2-year-old home in October.

“I said, I love you and I miss you,” he said. “I called her by her pet name, Pumpkin Patch.”

Although Lilly doesn’t speak English yet, she recognizes her dad’s voice. So the bear will be great for her to have, he said.

“She’s daddy’s girl,” he said. “She follows me around everywhere.”

The Optimists also plan to have other activities for families during the time the soldiers are gone, Ruxer said, adding that he hopes other groups do the same.

“Maybe a group could host a fun day for the kids, to let the parent go out and get some things done,” he said.

The Optimists are planning several events, including Valentines Day and Easter parties.

Spc. Ty Hunter wasn’t sure what kind of message he wanted to record for his 16-day-old son, Tyson. One of the Optimists suggested Hunter sing a song. But he didn’t think that would be wise.

“If I do that, the bear may reach inside itself and tear that (recording) out,” he joked.

Hunter kept his message simple, telling his son that he loves him and misses him.

“It took 15 tries for me to get it right,” Hunter said. “I kept re-recording because I didn’t like the way I said it.”

He’s glad for the chance to leave his son a message.

“While I’m away, this is a way for my child to hear my voice every day,” he said.


On the Net: www.operationvoicesandlove.com