From the heart
A portion of Jessica’s speech to soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry:
“The flag that waves over our heads represents you because you fight so hard for all of our country.
“When I think of America I think of the fact that we have a free country. What that means to me is that we have the opportunity at getting good careers, we can have good houses and that all of us have the chance to go to school.
“We also have the opportunity to have fun by doing things like going to Cedar Point, Walt Disney World and camping. Plus we can visit other states and countries and most of all, we can vote.
“Thank you once again and I hope you will enjoy a small treat that we have for you and the cards made by my school’s 3rd grade.”
Eight-year-old Jessica Crockett’s wish was to celebrate and share her ninth birthday party with someone special – a lot of special someones.
She got her wish Saturday when her family – helped out by friends, relatives and local businesses – treated nearly 200 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry to red, white and blue cupcakes at the battalion’s armory on Cook Road.
“I wanted to do it because you do so much and fight for us,” Jessica said.
Her parents were amazed when Jessica told them her wish.
“Out of the blue, she came to us and said she wanted a party to thank the soldiers,” said her father, Ron.
Jessica, who will be in fourth grade at Covington Elementary, said she does not know anyone personally who is a soldier, but she is aware of what soldiers do because of her mom.
“My mom helps the soldiers get radios,” Jessica said.
Tammy Crockett works in international programs at ITT Exelis, which makes military communications equipment.
After hearing her daughter’s wish, Tammy discussed the idea with co-worker and retired Army veteran Tony Tabler, who had all the right connections and made it happen, she said.
“I looked at a photo of Tammy’s 8-year-old daughter and said, ‘How can we not do this?’ ” Tabler said, taking a break from hanging up thank-you posters to the soldiers that were made by Covington Elementary third-graders.
Leah Morgan, Jessica’s teacher, was also in attendance.
After she heard what Jessica was doing, she organized the poster campaign and got all 125 third-graders and their teachers involved.
“Jessica has a big heart, so I was not surprised at her idea,” Morgan said.
In addition to Jessica’s generous and kind-hearted gesture, there was just an edge of some good, old-fashioned sibling rivalry at the party.
Michelle Crockett, 11, said her little sister’s idea was “really cool” but admitted she wished she had thought of it first.
“I really wanted to do it after I heard about it,” Michelle said, looking at her sister out of the corner of her eye.
Jessica smiled coyly and proudly raised her chin in triumph, and both girls laughed.
Standing in the center of the soldiers, Jessica delivered the speech she had written. It read, in part: “I bet that each day you fight for us, it fills up more love in God’s heart and I just want to thank you guys. Because of what you sacrifice, we can enjoy freedom.”
Afterward, she stood and thanked each soldier, shaking hands one by one after each had picked up a patriotic cupcake.
The event was held prior to Jessica’s birthday, which is July 14, because Saturday was the U.S. Army’s 239th birthday and because the soldiers had just returned from a two-week training operation.
Battalion commander Lt. Col. Gregory Marcuson presented Jessica with an honorary coin bearing the insignia of the 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry.
“Not everyone gets one of these,” Marcuson said, asking the soldiers to raise their hand if they had been given one. A small handful raised their hands.
“When I see an 8-year-old girl do something like this, I don’t know what to say, there are no words,” Marcuson said. “Your mom and dad must be so proud of you. I’m proud of you.”