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Hap Alexander column: Bring a soldier home for Christmas

Last week I received an invitation to attend the retirement ceremony for a Marine friend of ours who is stationed at Camp Lejeune.
Of course, we RSVP’d that we would be attending. This guy is really cool, but I just couldn’t figure out what to give him as a gift on this most significant occasion. I’m sure that he has everything you can imagine and a loving family, with a son who wants to enlist into the service.
I could not think of anything to give him which would be worthy of his service or the sacrifices that his family has made during his career, but then I remembered Valerie, a lady my sister, Anne, introduced me to last summer in Beaufort.
Now, this gal and I have so much (she doesn’t even know) in common, so it’s just a turn of fate that we met. She runs a little concession stand on the waterfront there, where she sells hot dogs. Yes, I said hot dogs! That’s just her sideline, though. Her main avocation is her Bring a Soldier Home charity, and that’s why I thought of her.
Bring a Soldier Home is a non-profit organization started four years ago by Valerie Peterson, an Army mom from Beaufort. She knows what it is like, with a son in the service, to have an empty seat at the table Christmas morning, so she decided to work on a program that would help other soldiers who had approved leave, but not enough money to make the trip, go home to their families for the holidays.
What began as the vision of one has quickly grown into an organization that has touched the lives of so many all over the country. She gets more referrals than money.
After talking with Valerie, I could not think of a more fitting retirement gift for U.S. Marine Chief Warrant Officer Three Dwight Torres than making a donation to Bring a Soldier Home in his honor.
Through the combined efforts of her organization and The Military Order of the Purple Heart Wounded Warrior Leave Fund, she was able to send 87 soldiers from Fort Bragg and 142 Marines and 10 Navy corpsmen from Camp Lejeune home for Christmas.
In addition to these Purple Heart recipients, Bring a Soldier Home was able to fund Christmas trips home for 47 Marines who were injured by friendly fire or accidents such as truck rollovers. Though injured at war, they do not receive a Purple Heart; however, they are just as much a hero in our eyes, thus making a grand total of 286 Wounded Warriors she helped reunite with their families last Christmas!
As one young soldier said, “Our biggest fear isn’t the Taliban, it’s that the American people back home will forget about us.” With folks like Valerie, we will never forget.
You can send her mail at:
Bring a Soldier Home
c/o Valerie Peterson, Executive Director
P.O. Box 2468
Beaufort, NC 28516
Her e-mail address is Soldierhome4usa@yahoo.com.
– – –
Hap Alexander, a former Salisbury resident, lives at Topsail Beach.

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