News: Snowflakes in the desert
Story by 1st Lt. Kerri Brantley
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - Soldiers currently deployed to Kuwait in support of stability and security gathered together at the USO Center to support the survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
When the public invitation to make snowflakes to create a winter wonderland for the students upon their return from the Christmas holiday was announced, USO volunteer coordinator Shannon Stockman jumped at the opportunity to help.
On Christmas Day, volunteers and soldiers accepted the mission led by the USO's resident crafts instructor, 1st. Lt. Kerri Brantley, of Boise, Idaho, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Combat Aviation Brigade.
"When I first heard of the tragedy, all I wanted was to hug my kids; my youngest, is a first grader. I felt helpless here, until this opportunity came about. I feel like contributing to something so powerful was needed. These kids need us, we have to bind together, so they know beauty wins," said Brantley.
The Army is focused on resiliency to provide resources and support for soldiers with the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity.
The PTA is doing the same thing for its students. As soldiers, we want to help foster that resiliency for some of our nation's youngest members who have dealt with such adversity. We can talk resiliency, but the action of showing them how to work through it, is far more powerful, with lasting impacts.
Spc. Arsenio Thomas, of Memphis, Tenn., assigned to Delta Company, 115th Infantry Battalion was the first one to the craft table and the last to leave.
He was a great helper in teaching others how to make 3-D snowflakes. He too knows the pain of losing someone so soon in life when his sister passed away at a young age.
"I wanted to do something to give back to help the kids. I know how my mother felt when she lost my sister. I'm just willing to contribute to anything to help get the kids' minds off what happened," said Thomas. "We are here to protect and defend the United States and as soldiers. We have the Army values that guide us, but sometimes you have to go beyond that and think of the mother, brother, sister or friend that needs support."
The unity amongst the troops was overwhelming. The generosity of every volunteer on Christmas was amazing.
The weather was particularly against us on Christmas, but soldiers like, Spc. Elisa Snook, of Lock Haven, Pa., assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1/109th Infantry Battalion, specifically left their rooms to come participate in this worthy project.
"I want to do something that may help them heal. I may not understand their pain, but I want to help in the healing process," said Snook. "When the children come back to school, I hope they feel safe and see even in bad times. You can see greatness. You (the children of Sandy Hook Elementary) are all heroes because you're brave enough to make a fresh start."
Capt. Angela Todd, of Clarksville, Tenn., assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th CAB, took time out on Christmas to contribute to the snowflake masterpiece. Her family has a history of volunteering and in addition to carrying on a family tradition. She wanted to do something for the kids.
"I feel horrible for the kids. I hope that our efforts bring smiles to their little faces in lieu of their losses of friend and teachers," said Todd. "It is fun hanging out with fellow soldiers, since I am spending Christmas away from my family. We are all working together for the kids."
As soldiers, we serve our country. We carry the load of freedom to protect and defend our citizens back home. No matter how big or how small the effort is, each and every member of our society is important to us, we protect the people of the United States of America. Whether it's helping in flood recovery or helping to mend hearts of our young children, we stand ready.
It brings great joy to us serving at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, to be able to participate and send these snowflakes, made with love and enduring strength to these brave sons and daughters of America. We hope the "winter wonderland" inspires the children and gives them reassurance that there are still joys to be found in life.