What do you want to be when you grow up? A football player for the Bears
What’s your favorite food? Pasta
What’s your weird talent? Mixing ingredients together to make salad dressings and condiments.
Who inspires you and why? The soldiers because they make us free so we can play outside and stuff.
Eleven-year-old Jason Redford was in the car with his parents listening to the news on the radio and noticed that the war in Iraq wasn’t the first story of the day. Feeling that people had forgotten about the troops fighting overseas, Jason started Operation Talk to a Troop, asking kids to send letters to soldiers.
"I sent letters to teachers at my school asking them to get kids to write," says the Gurnee fifth-grader. "Then I had to go to other schools."
In the letter calling for messages to soldiers, Jason writes, "I would like to have all of my friends (and their friends) write letters to the troops. I want us to let them know that we have not forgotten about them."
Jason hasn’t been promoting Operation Talk to a Troop on his own, though—he gets a lot of help from his parents, Caryn and Ed. Besides helping to get letters from students at the school where she works, Caryn takes copies of Jason’s letter everywhere she goes, hoping to spread the word.
"I hand out letters in the airport, when we’re on vacation, everywhere," she says. "It’s one of those chain things and we ask people to pass it on."
The family opened a post office box specifically for Operation Talk to a Troop and money Jason earned cutting grass for the summer (along with some donations from friends and family members) pays for it. Once the letters arrive, Caryn goes through each letter to make sure they are appropriate to send and do not contain any personal information before shipping them overseas.
"I tell kids to put their age and what they’re doing, what sports they like to do," Jason suggests to kids who want to write letters.
Caryn and Jason don’t discourage younger kids from sending letters, either.
"Jason has a brother who is 7 who couldn’t write well when this started," says Caryn. "I said to Matthew to draw a picture and he’s drawn pictures of the flag and sent those."
Over the past year since the organization started, the family has received more than 1,300 letters from kids across the country and Jason hopes to get many more.
"I want to do this as long as I can because it makes the soldiers happy," he says.
Letters can be sent to Jason, care of Operation Talk to a Troop, at P.O. Box 8166, Gurnee, IL 60031.
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