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Thread: Letter perfect
01-14-09, 07:12 AM #1
Gurnee scout leads 'Operation Talk to a Troop' campaign
January 14, 2009
By DAN MORAN DMORAN@SCN1.COM
GURNEE -- When the Iraq War moved off the front pages and deeper into the evening newscasts, Jason Redford -- who was about to start fourth grade -- was worried that the troops were being forgotten.
"We were driving in the car with the radio on," he recalled about the night in the summer of 2006, "and I noticed that it wasn't the top story on the news anymore."
"I remember we were driving to a restaurant," said his mother, Caryn, "and he said, 'Mom, we're going out to eat dinner, and it's like nothing ever happened.'"
From there, Jason and his parents brainstormed for ideas about how to show support for the troops. Jason said his first thought, creating tie-dyed t-shirts, had to be set aside as too expensive. Caryn Redford said a friend of hers who had a son serving in Iraq helped them come up with a more practical idea.
"She said he got a lot of letters from schoolchildren and different groups, and it helped boost their morale. I thought it was wonderful that Jason wanted to do something for them, so we decided to help him any way we could."
On Monday night, the members and parents of Boy Scout Troop 627 fought through a growing snowstorm to participate in Operation Talk to a Troop, an effort that has collected 2,800 letters since October 2006.
Also on hand in the Woodland Middle School cafeteria were members of the Lake County Marine Corps League who gave Jason a Certificate of Appreciation for "creating, promoting and maintaining" a project that provides service personnel with "much-needed support to carry on their mission."
"Your efforts reflect well upon yourself and your family," said League Commandant Russ Desak, reading from the certificate, "and show the type of patriotism and loyalty our country has well documented throughout history."
Jason also received a unit medal from members of the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines out of Waukegan. Sgt. Casey Aragon quipped that he heard Jason had received a similar token of appreciation from an Army unit, and "we always try to outdo what the Army does."
Cpl. Jason White of Gurnee encouraged the scouts to drop a letter in a waiting shipment box, saying he knows from experience that they have the intended effect.
"It does mean a lot. I've been to Iraq twice, and I received a lot of letters from people I didn't even know," White said. "They weren't writing because they knew me -- they were writing just because."
The Redfords have set up a post office box in Gurnee to field letters for the project. Caryn Redford said she reads through each one to make sure they don't contain any personal information or references to death, dying or injuries. The letters are then mailed en masse to different distribution centers, since the names and locations of individual troops can't be given out to the general public.
The scouts were asked to address their letters "Dear Troop" and mention things like where they go to school and what the weather is like in the Chicago area right now.
Jason has fielded submissions from several classes in the Woodland School District and has also addressed the Gurnee American Legion and the Gurnee Breakfast Exchange Club about Operation Talk to a Troop.
"It might only take you a few minutes to write a letter, but the smile it gives them will last," he told the scouts, adding that he plans to keep the project running "until the last of our troops comes home."
Contributions to Operation Talk to a Troop can be mailed to P.O. Box 8166, Gurnee, IL 60031.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
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