During a morning formation on Dec. 19, 2004, our company commander read the following letter that accompanied gifts of 150 Wave Leatherman tools for each soldier in our company. Each were engraved beautifully "Alaska Supports You."
As he was reading the letter, tears started down my face. I talked with the other Kenai Peninsula guys Troy, Greg, Roy, Ken, John, Mathew, Shawn McLeod and Christopher Peterson afterwards, and they also were teary eyed. You see, these tools were gifts donated by people and businesses from our community, the Kenai Peninsula. I've never before felt such pride in a community. I've also never cried in formation before. Please keep that one to yourselves.
The letter reads:
"To: Alpha Company, 3rd Scout Battalion, 297th Infantry
I wanted to share with you how this Alaskan Hometown Gift Fund project became a reality. In November 2004, I was driving home from just another day of work. I have been thinking often about our soldiers preparing for war, and I wanted to tell you that I honor the personal sacrifices you are making for our nation. I am just one Alaskan, but what can one average person from a small town do?
That night, I began talking to another Alaskan, but what can a few Alaskan people do? The project took off like a wildfire, and I soon realized that many Alaskans wanted to join together and send you a message.
We wanted to do something to let you know that the hometown is thinking of you, so we thought of some things every Alaskan needs in the field. As every Alaskan knows, you can just about fix anything and fly with two items at hand. We know the Army supplies you with duct tape, so we went with the second item, and it had to be the best. So we made one call to a local hometown hardware store, and they supported this project without hesitation.
We also wanted to send a message so that you know our community supports you, and we honor your courage. We made one call to a local hometown engraver and they simply said, 'let's do it!' We wanted to give you a future family heirloom, so we serial numbered these gifts 001-150. (Some of us spent time long ago at the bottom of the enlisted ranks, so please ensure the most junior soldier gets #001 he deserves it!)
Within three weeks, the community pulled the project together to deliver this gift in time for Christmas. Alaskans from all walks of life joined in on the effort, including bikers, waitresses, petrochemical workers, veterans, welders, car salesmen, businesses, union leaders, dog mushers, loggers, teachers, politicians, school kids, hunters, doctors, bus drivers, fishermen, senior citizens, bush pilots, and a barber just to name a few. All of us know that without soldiers, our way of life and our everyday freedoms could not be preserved. So with this small gift, and in one big voice: 'Alaska Supports You!'
When you need to apply some Alaskan ingenuity to fix a problem, just reach down and grasp your Alaskan hometown gift. If ever you have a moment of doubt during moments of trial, read our hometown message. When tough times are upon you, draw strength from our prayers, and know that we are with you every step of the way.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,
Your Alaskan Hometown Community"
The author is unknown.
I want you to know that a private in my platoon, Private Williams, received serial number 001. He's from Juneau. He is the most hardworking private in the company, is a machine gunner (M240B code named "Shark"), and was promoted to Private First Class at the same formation we received our Leatherman (code named "Wave").
To all the "unknowns" that gave, thank you. You're right. It is the most used tool. We can't get into an MRE without it. That's Meals Ready to Eat food packages for some of you. We call them "M R Nasties." Every soldier that I've talked to about this was very honored that someone would do something like this for them. One is even talking about sending his home because he doesn't want any scratches on it. He won't. Rank does have its privileges. They all said to tell you all thank you for the gift and more importantly for the support.
I personally want to thank all the veterans that participated. I know that we may have failed as a country to support some troops in the past. You have been in the forefront of the effort to ensure that this never happens again to any deploying soldier. It's working. I have no doubts that there are those who participated in this gift effort that may not agree with the war but who support the troops wholeheartedly. We have grown up as a nation.
I want you to know that your legacy lives on with us. Most of our leadership has been trained by Vietnam vets. These are the really old guys. We pass on to our soldiers what we learned from you, to always watch our 360 security, to change our socks often, and to keep our heads on a swivel always knowing what's going on.
We are leaving for Iraq tomorrow via Louisiana and Kuwait. We will be fitted with our up-armored vehicles in Kuwait before moving north to Iraq. I'll keep you in "the know" after the fact.
Once again, on behalf of the men from A Company, "Clan of the Hawks," thank you, Kenai, for the support and the gift. We will never forget it. It'll be right there by our sides. And please don't forget those other Kenai soldiers not part of our unit who are currently deployed. God bless you all.
Sergeant First Class, Will Schwenke, U.S. Army National Guard
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