Lincoln Trail School, year after year, does a phenomenal job of honoring our Veterans. It is their biggest project of the year, and it shows. Hundreds of veterans attend. There is music. There are videos of children interviewing veterans—Korean War Veterans were highlighted this year. Bagpipes play while we remember lost soldiers, and a chilling rendition of Taps is played from two buglers in opposite corners of the gym. And each year, my seat finds me listening to the Star Spangled Banner with the gruff voice of older veterans in one ear, and Boy Scouts' voices, like bells, in the other.
I woke up, this morning, feeling particularly emotional. I'm not altogether sure why, I just was. These children, they had done so much. The local TV station had slipped and given away the amount of the donation to be awarded to me: $1800! Doh! I knew they wanted it to be a secret, but now I knew.
$1800 would get us through the years' end, where I can then get things in order and focus on fund raising in Spring '11. We'll get by, we always do.
But still. $1800 is a LOT of money, and I just teared up every time I thought of it. And I got busy thinking of the notes I'd received from soldiers that have received our boxes, and contemplating that my own son is home from Iraq, oh, my God, he was in Iraq! It still shocks me, sometimes.
I was just in a mood this morning. Feeling emotional and blessed, and amazed, once again, at the kindness of other people. These kids, and the staff, they just did this for me. They asked me if they could do this. I tried to practice my little thank you speech in the car, but every time I got to "I received an e-mail from a soldier that we sent boxes to..." or, "my own son just arrived home from Iraq," I started bawling. I switched from speech-practicing to chiding myself: "Buckle UP, girl! You can't go up there and start crying, you'll scare those kids half to death!"
So I buckled up. I did. But then there was the Anthem, and the bagpipes, and Taps, for heck-sake, and I got to sit with the distinguished members of the Color Guard. And those kids, and the interviews with the veterans...boy, they chipped away at my resolve, but I was fine.
And then it was my turn, and an articulate young man got on stage and spoke of their fundraising endeavours, while 3 other children untied and unrolled a giant check, made out to Toys for Troops:
Twenty-three hundred, ninety-three dollars, and seventy-eight cents.
Not $1800.00. As I remember, the wind was knocked right out of me, and then I burst into tears. Yes, yes, that's exactly what I did, but I had a minute to compose myself as a member of the Color Guard took the stage, and presented me with another $100 to add to the total.
I started out my little speech by informing the audience that I was feeling a bit emotional, which was an absolutely unnecessary opening statement. My hands were shaking, my voice was shaking, and I think that I told them they were amazing for having quadrupled their goal, before I read SPC Josh Hanks' note to them, and told them that one SPC Brian Jolley had reported back to Fort Benning yesterday, so he missed the program by one day, but said to tell them hello. It was something like that, I think, that I said.
I got back to my seat, still choked up and shaking from stage fright, when the third-graders broke into My Country Tis of Thee. As I tried to calm myself, the white-haired veteran sitting next to me, a member of the color guard, reached over and took my hand. My right hand, in his white-cotton-gloved left, and he held it tight for the entire song. I was instantly calmed.
And, it was just a wonderful, wonderful day, did I say that already?
What I haven't told you yet is that there was a bit of cash and a few more checks in the envelope from Lincoln Trail, and I received an additional $700 in outside donations for this project.
Together, we raised $3300.00 for Toys for Troops, and added 47 names and addresses to our mailing list. Our soldiers are covered for the holidays, and well into the next year. We are, quite simply, afloat because of these children, their teachers, and the staff of Lincoln Trail School.
And now, I've run out of anything to say, but Thank You.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Oh, and one more thing, I'll announce it again tomorrow:
Toys for Troops: HOLIDAY BOXES FOR SOLDIERS
VILLAGE INN PIZZA PARLOR
1:00, DECEMBER 5, 2011.
Get your cookies, socks, DVDs, and various gifties ready for wrapping, packing, taping, and shipping. Details to come.
Thank you again.