Kim Perez is Director of Operational Analysis in GES’ New Orleans’ office…

Remember when sending letters to friends wasn’t called, “snail mail?” Nothing compares to holding that piece of paper in your hand and reading the heartfelt words coming from someone who cares. My nine-year-old son, Cruz, has a passion for writing and his teacher suggested that he become “pen pals” with a soldier in Afghanistan. I knew this was perfect for him and soon enough I found “Adopt a Platoon.”

This program wasn’t necessarily for kids, but it provided structure, organization and legitimacy to the pen pal process. After completing a background check and being matched to a soldier we opted to send one letter a week and one care package a month. I explained to Cruz that even though we may never hear back, it’s about giving to those who serve our country. Cruz always remembered when it was time to ship a package or send a letter with pictures. After a few months, a letter arrived and I can’t begin to explain the grin Cruz had from ear to ear, it was a letter from HIS soldier.

From that point on, a unique and special friendship was born. Month after month the two continued to write, and soon the soldier was promoted to Sergeant and transferred. He asked Cruz to hold off on letters until he knew his address. Cruz waited and the second we received it, we sent another care package and Cruz drew a picture, but never received a response. I felt sick to my stomach, “What if something happened?”

Finally, I received a message from the Sergeant’s wife explaining that he was wounded in an explosion. After surgery, he returned home to receive a Purple Heart. Cruz’s birthday was quickly approaching and instead of gifts, he asked his friends to donate money to the Sergeant’s recovery. The story quickly spread through our community and we received many checks. We sent the Sergeant’s family $1,200 and letters from the children who attended Cruz’s party.

While thinking up this surprise, we had no idea what the Sergeant had up his sleeve.

Cruz received a letter from the Sergeant stating that every person who studies being a warrior must also be equipped to be one. Along with this sweet letter, he sent Cruz a sniper jacket with his name and a SPEC Ops’ hat. Joy overflowed in our hearts and we started to realize just how much we positively affected the Sergeant’s life. What have we learned from this? Something as simple as a handwritten letter can help take away the pain of a tragedy.

Here’s a quote from a letter I received after SSG Andrew Christian Fain’s family received our check. “Knowing that I have people out there, who support me the way you do gives me strength to drive on and accomplish what I need to do to remain in the service. You all are the good that makes this country great.”

If you would like to learn more about Adopt a Platoon or send thanks to Sergeant Fain, please e-mail me at kperez@ges.com.