My daughter Ava has a project in her kindergarten class called Flat Stanley. They take this little paper guy called Flat Stanley and color him and send him somewhere far away to get his picture taken. When my son Benjamin (now in the fourth grade) was in kindergarten, we sent his to a cousin of mine who lives in Las Vegas. Flat Stanley went out on the Strip, hit some slot machines and played some blackjack.
But Benjamin was kindergarten well before Operation Jack, so I didn’t know nearly as many people as I do now. I was thinking of various places I could have sent Ava’s Flat Stanley — Alaska, Maine, Miami, the Midwest — but then I realized I made a connection last year with U.S. Army Major John Atilano, who’s currently deployed to Afghanistan. I’ve chatted via email and Twitter with John a bit over the past six months and he’s a great guy.
If you’re new here, I make no secret about the fact that military folks are my heroes. They put their lives on the line and do things I can’t even comprehend to make sure that complete strangers can enjoy freedom. It doesn’t get much more heroic than that in my book.
Anyways, I asked him if he would take a couple of pictures of Flat Stanley over there and he said yeah, no problem. But, like so many of the wonderful people in our armed forces, he went way above and beyond the call of duty.
Check out what he created for Ava: YOU MUST CHECK THIS OUT!!!
He sent it back with two patches for Ava. When troops deploy, they get a patch that they get to keep permanently on their uniform that commemorates their assignment.
He also included this nice letter:
Inside you will find Flat Stanley’s “Combat Patch.” In the Army when you deploy to a combat zone you earn the right to wear the patch of the unit you served with on your right shoulder forever. It means you served with honor and helped people less fortunate than yourself.
Flat Stanley did a great job during his deployment. You should be very proud of him!
Keep doing great in school! Education is so important!
John A. Atilano II
United States Army
How amazing is that? John is also a marathon runner. One of these days, I’m going to run a race with him, pacing him through. It will really be an honor for me. For now, I just pray for him to stay out of harm’s way. He told me Monday he misses his wife and kids dearly, but I think he’s coming home next month. He deployed on Christmas Eve this time.
He’s going to write a guest blog for me later this week, either tomorrow or Friday I think. I don’t know what it’s going to be about, but I’m sure it’s going to be great.
OK, that’s all I have for today. John reads my blog … leave him some nice feedback! If you’re on Twitter, follow John here!