By John Kelly
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Scott Kreger thought he had a good idea, but how could he be sure? How would people react when his idea -- so simple, so heartfelt -- finally made the journey from imagination to reality?
What would the world think of the way Scott had decided to thank the men and women fighting in our nation's two wars?
His idea is to give every veteran who did a tour of duty in Afghanistan or Iraq a white oval bumper sticker inspired by those we see at the beach. But instead of saying "OBX" or "OC," they would say "AFG" or "IRQ." Underneath would be the words, "I served."
A marathoner, he has a "26.2" sticker on his car. Why not show a different kind of solidarity?
The Germantown resident had a few stickers printed up and late last week launched a Web site -- http://www.iservedsticker.org-- inviting veterans to request them. The e-mails started pouring in.
"I have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and I would like to request one of each sticker," wrote a veteran living in Nevada.
"Currently serving in Baghdad Iraq for a SECOND time!" wrote a man from Florida requesting an "IRQ" sticker. "Missing my wife and family lots."
"I will display it proudly," wrote a soldier from Pennsylvania.
A mother from Oregon: "This sticker is for my son, a wounded warrior from Afghanistan."
A grandmother from Illinois: "This is for my grandson."
Scott, 44, is an investment adviser at RBC Wealth Management in Rockville. Like a lot of us, he doesn't have much contact with soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines. In this era of the all-volunteer military, war can be an abstraction and the people fighting, just faces on the evening news.
"I felt like I was not giving back," Scott said. "I'm sitting there in my air-conditioned office, and people are dying for this country."
It costs 6 cents to make a sticker.
"I guarantee you're going to have at least one person come up and thank you for your service. I think that's a good investment for your 6 cents."
Scott said a million soldiers could eventually funnel through Iraq and Afghanistan. "These soldiers are coming back to a bad economy, not many jobs and they need to communicate with people. They need to communicate with each other. What better way?"
A million times 6 cents comes to $60,000. Postage is another expense. He thinks $100,000 should cover everything. He's soliciting contributions on his Web site. He doesn't want a few big donations, though. He'd rather have many people making small donations. He wants kids digging into piggy banks. He wants children excitedly pointing from the back seats of cars saying, "Daddy, there's one of those things we paid for!"
He wants conversations started. He wants the simple stickers to inspire heartfelt expressions of thanks: at red lights, at rest stops, at gas stations.
"Look, if I have to pay for it out of my own pocket, every single person who requested one is going to get a sticker. I have no problem paying for 150,000 stickers," Scott said. "Where it gets to be a problem is if I have to pay for a million stickers. I'd probably have my wife walking out the door."
All the money is going toward buying and mailing the stickers. Once every soldier who wants one has one, the project is over. A neighbor who is a pastor, Mark Wilkinson, is letting Scott use his church's PayPal system. Joe Clark, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel whom Scott met at a party, has helped open a few official doors.
And the e-mails continue to pour in, from every state in the union, plus from members of coalition forces from overseas.
Said Scott: "A lot of parents, a lot of wives and brothers and sisters are saying, 'My brother, my husband, my son is serving right now, and I would like this to give to them when they get back.' What does that do for these people? It gives them hope that they'll come back."Send a Kid to Camp
Lots of small gifts is also how we raise money for Camp Moss Hollow, our summer camp for at-risk kids. To make a tax-deductible gift, send a check or money order, payable to "Send a Kid to Camp," to P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237. Or contribute online by going to http://www.washingtonpost.com/camp and clicking on the donation link. To use MasterCard or Visa by phone, call 202-334-5100 and follow the instructions on our taped message.
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