The joy of being an educator is unmatched. Ours is a career where not only do we impact today, but everyday through our words and actions we shape tomorrow. In the present, we see how big of a difference our students will make because there are the times when students simply blow you away with their talents, thoughts, skills, and kindnesses. One such moment with the latter recently, humbly left me in tears,speechless. Some of “my” university seniors came to the realization that our sweet boy would be a senior just like them. Understanding that the year would be bittersweet for me, they decided to put together an amazing tribute that resulted in remembering Reed by honoring one of his favorite groups of people. With the support of a grant through Modern Woodmen and resources from the campus Veteran’s Organization, a graduation project for him which truly touched my heart materialized. The letter that follows accompanied 27 blankets shipped to Marines serving overseas. The email which follows that left our whole family in tears as we realized that Reed’s story continues to touch the lives of others.
Dear United States Military Personnel –
What you see before you is a few yards of fleece, lovingly cut and tied together to keep you warm. If that is all you see, then we have failed in our mission, not only to help keep you warm, but also, in sending much love and prayers for your safety interwoven into its very fabric.
I wanted to share with you a bit about these blankets and how they came to you today. Just know that many hands and hearts went into the creation of these packages of comfort sent from home. There is a veteran of Desert Shield/Storm who married a teacher and they had a big family. The oldest of their children came into the world about as patriotic as Uncle Sam. As he grew and matured, his love for country expanded. So much so that when war protests in their town grew from objecting war to saying bad things about service men and women, he begged his parents to not drive by that corner of town anymore. Then the unimaginable happened. One of their own – a local soldier – died and the name of a different city street was going to be changed in this hero’s honor. Every day that little boy asked his parents to drive by that same street to see if his hometown lived up to their promise to honor and to never forget. That young man continued to grow in his love of country and patriotism through Boy Scouts.
Unfortunately, the boy’s story ended abruptly when a tragic school bus crash happened. The young man died at only 12 years old. If he were alive today, he would be 21 years old and a senior in college. This is where the blankets start to come in.
Let me introduce myself, I am that young man’s mom and I also happen to be an education professor at Southwest Minnesota State University. The EMSP (Education Minnesota Student Program) wanted to complete a community service project for you (while you are fighting for our safety), and a few of the students somehow realized that although the picture of my son, Reed, that is frozen in time is a 7th grade football player, he was actually their age. Unbeknownst to me, they decided that their teacher (me) must have mixed emotions watching them get ready to graduate when I wouldn’t being doing the same for Reed.
This is how Project Reed began and how these blankets were created. My students created this project in your honor as my son’s “graduation project”. The other details were we applied for a grant through the Modern Woodmen organization and through some amazing couponing skills our efforts multiplied and blossomed.
Wherever you are today, just know that while this looks like some fleece tied together, your blanket represents many hands working together, many prayers uttered for you, and a whole lot of love wrapped up in this bundle.
We are thankful for you. May God keep you wrapped in the warmth of his love, but more importantly nestled in safety.
Our prayers are with you!
Kandy Noles Stevens
Good Morning Kandy,
My name is CP. I am currently on active duty with the United States Marine Corps, serving overseas. The reason I am emailing you is because a bunch of us over here received the blankets that were made in remembrance of your son, Reed. The blankets are much appreciated and just know that the story you enclosed with the Education Information and Blankets, has touched hearts literally around the world. I have no doubt in my mind that your son is looking down on us giving us the prayers and all that we need to keep us safe, guiding us in the right direction over here. This really hit home for me when I read your letter especially because I just happen to be from Minnesota myself! I grew up on my Family Farm just outside of the small town about 45 minutes West of St Cloud. I have been in the Marine Corps now for about 3 ½ years and will be looking to get out and be back home somewhere around mid-August for good then I am going to pursue an education of some sort. Have not put a whole lot of thought into it yet but I definitely want to utilize my GI-Bill as well as any state benefits that I may be eligible for as well; and it sounds like I just may have found the right person to help me out with that! But all business aside I just wanted to say thank you to yourself and all of your students for all the thoughts, prayers, & gifts that have been brought to us over here in the Middle-East. Your son has touched many Marines hearts over here and will continue to do so for many years!
And for “our Marine”, we are praying every day for his safe return so that the story can continue and write more tales. In the days where you question whether what you do matters, just know that the life of one young man has created gigantic pond ripples, or maybe tidal waves, in God’s love story for us all. And for that we couldn’t be more thankful.