Follow the football in this ongoing holiday story
BY RON BRINSON
It’s the sweet promise of every Christmas season, the nice little stories of caring and generosity that warm our holiday spirits against some cold realities — like protracted wars, fiscal cliffs, and ponderous high government impasses.
We enjoy these reminders that goodness persists within humanity’s DNA, despite hard evidence that too often suggests otherwise. And with these anecdotes, we might be inspired to generate a little goodness of our own — especially at Christmas.
Now follow the ball, folks.
Jim and Tracy Emond decided last August they would send “care” packages to individual servicemen stationed overseas. Using the website www.AnySolider.com, the Emonds learned about servicemen stationed all over the world and specific personal items each could use. The web site provides mailing addresses.
“These soldiers quickly became part of our extended family,” Mrs. Emond said. “You just want to help them with things they need and can’t easily get.” The requests, she said, are fairly predictable “…socks, toothpaste, deodorant, and coffee; and right now they need extra blankets, hats and gloves. It’s cold in Afghanistan!”
The Emonds decided they would send two boxes each week. “Just knowing that you are helping without any expectations of return is a gift in itself,” Tracy Emond said. “And these are our soldiers, so far away from their homes and families.”
Good deeds beget good deeds, and the Emonds family and friends and neighbors have joined in. At their North Charleston home, the Emonds’ kitchen these days often looks like a shipping store.
Mrs. Emond noticed specific requests for footballs from special forces personnel stationed in Afghanistan’s remote war zones. Footballs make for bulky shipments, and they’re more expensive than socks or toothpaste. But that would be no problem for Mrs. Emond. She sent letters to National Football League teams politely asking for donations of their practice balls. Soon, she had 36 NFL footballs in hand. And for some reason, the Emonds’ three-year old son Jeremiah became attached to a Cincinnati Bengals ball. “He slept with it and played with it, and we took lots of pictures of him with it,” Mrs. Emond recalled.
Soon enough, Mrs. Emond added that ball to a care package addressed to “SFC John P.”, a Green Beret stationed in Afghanistan’s remote Herat region. The Emonds chose “John” from a www.AnySolider.com list, and from his posts, they knew that he was a father serving his 12th tour in the Iraq-Afghanistan theatres. Mrs. Emond enclosed a note describing her family’s initiatives, and she explained how she obtained the football. She sent along a picture of Jeremiah with that ball.
Six weeks later, the Emonds received mail from Afghanistan. “John’s” letter expressed appreciation for the Emonds’ good work. His primary message was directed to Jeremiah. He told the little boy that he was deployed in a location so remote the football package delivery was by parachute from a transport plane at 10,000 feet. This rugged Green Beret talked about his family, noting he would be home next May.
“John” said Jeremiah’s football had become very special to him and his platoon. He had taken it on several combat missions, including one that involved a prolonged firefight with the enemy. He included four action-blurred photographs that documented the football’s dangerous journey. One shows “John”, weapon in hand, scurrying for battlefield cover with a football netted to his backpack.
This letter from the battlefield expresses a soldier’s genuine appreciation for one family’s simple gifts — and why we should all care. “John” is truly a professional American solider, regularly deployed by choice to combat zones. He’s a father, 8,000 miles from his family and North Carolina home, communicating with a family he never met simply because they expressed their care for him. From Afghanistan’s frigid battlegrounds, this real-time war veteran took time to meld that circle of goodness that so quickly stirs our Christmas hearts.
Last week, the Emonds mailed their 52nd package, including another to “John”. This one includes two homemade scarves, laundry detergent, diaper wipes, socks and toothpaste.
And little Jeremiah enjoys his early Christmas present — from Afghanistan. Yes, that would be the football that took a combat tour on John’s backpack. Every member of John’s special forces platoon autographed the ball, declaring it would be their Christmas gift to a little boy who surely will enjoy its meaning for a lifetime.
Nice little story, for sure.
Let the Christmas season begin.
Ron Brinson, a North Charleston city councilman, is a former associate editor of this newspaper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.