By Kathi Bliss
Her son will not be home for the holidays.
Not this year. Not ever again.
Like thousands of other soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, Cpl. Jason K. LaFleur, a former resident of Lockhart, was killed in action during the War on Terror. But rather than using his loss as an excuse to stop living and stop caring, the tragedy has given Kei LaFleur Torres a passion, a voice and a desire to serve others – those like her son who continue to enlist in the military, who continue to serve the nation.
Although President Barack Obama made the heady promise to have combat troops removed from Iraq this month, service members continue to deploy, not only to the Middle East, but elsewhere in the world. And because they continue to deploy, they continue to need the support of the “folks at home.”
It is that need that Torres, working with other Gold Star Mothers from her son’s troop, hopes to fill.
She is asking her friends, neighbors and families to help sponsor the troops for the holidays – and she hopes that her former Lockhart neighbors will step up in Jason’s honor.
“We want to adopt every single soldier from their former troop on their upcoming deployment,” she wrote in an email last month. “They will be gone a year and we are looking for patriots to support our military, and to adopt a soldier for the year of their deployment.”
For security reasons, Torres said she could not disclose where the group would be located, but she said she expected they might not have access to some of the creature comforts associated with stateside military bases.
“They will wash their clothes by hand on a washboard, and they will not have access to multiple cafeterias or a PX,” she said. “They will burn their own waste and bathe only with the baby wipes they receive.”
In return for their sacrifices, she said, she and her cohorts are asking individuals and families to adopt a soldier for the duration of the year, sending care packages at least once a month, and letters twice a month.
“There is nothing more uplifting for these guys than to hear their name at mail call,” she said.
When she sends packages, Torres said, she includes things such as razors, baby wipes, body wash and homemade goodies. To save on costs, she shops at discount stores, and utilizes flat-rate shipping through the US Postal Service. She said that she rarely spends more than $20 per package.
She said her son was generally quiet about his service, but she discovered after his death that he had been “adopted” by an Adopt-a-Soldier program. She said he had kept every letter, card and gift he received.
The meaning those things carried in her son’s life is likely a strong portion of her desire to give this project “legs.” She often reminds others how important it is for service members to know that, not only are they not forgotten, but they are appreciated by the country they have chosen to serve.
This week, Torres said her group of “adopters” was growing, and was large enough to adopt each of the 90 soldiers in her son’s former troop. As of Wednesday morning, another 160 volunteers were needed to accomplish the goal of adopting the entire 1/40th CAV of the 425 Infantry for their upcoming deployment.
To participate or to adopt a soldier, email Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find Ft. Richardson Memorial Adoptions on Facebook.
Editor’s Note: Cpl. Jason K. LaFleur, 28, was killed in action on Aug. 4, 2007, along with two other soldiers, when their vehicle was struck by an IED in Hawr Rajab, Iraq. He was a 1997 graduate of Lockhart High School.
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