Our country has troops deployed in more than 150 countries. Every day, families say goodbye to loved ones, not knowing whether they will ever see them again.
Unfortunately, many of us civilians get so caught up in our own lives that we forget about the thousands of troops protecting us around the world.
Megan Cantley, a second-grade teacher at W.R. Odell Elementary School, will never forget the day her boyfriend's brother was deployed.
"I remember watching a group of men getting teary-eyed, and that was when I actually realized the magnitude of having and knowing someone who was being deployed," she said. "Once I saw their reaction, I instantly wondered what I could do.
"Odell has great parents and support, and that was when I thought we could do something as a group."
She got in touch with Capt. Michael Beck in Afghanistan, who told her what his platoon needed: mostly basic things such as soap, toothbrushes, snacks and so on. As word spread, many items started pouring in.
"We were given gracious monetary donations by BB&T and Vulcan. These two companies, along with our PTA and a few parents from Odell, made our project a true success story," Cantley said. "We ended up packing 52 boxes to ship."
Students also made cards and thank-you letters for the troops to go along with all the goodies.
"About a week later we received a letter from Capt. Beck. He informed us that he received the boxes," Cantley said. "I never told him how many to expect, and he was shocked. He said they needed to make three trips the... day they received stuff.
"Six hundred people got something from those boxes, and even after he sent the letter, he said, more boxes kept arriving.
"After reading his letter, our kids realized that even though they did not see the impact, they knew their donations made a difference.
"Our goal was to also include any Odell parents or family members we knew (were) serving at this time. We ended up having two students who have dads overseas and an assistant's son-in-law. They, too, received donations," Cantley said.
As a thank-you gift, Capt. Beck sent the school a flag that had flown over his unit's camp in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day. He also sent a plaque and a certificate of patriotism. The items are prominently displayed in the school showcases.
I asked Cantley whether she will do this project again next year.
"I certainly would do this again," she said. "The impact on our school, students, community and staff was too large for us to not do it again.
"We just wanted to let strangers and loved ones know we are here thinking of them and appreciating their sacrifices.
"... Now as we walk by our showcases, we will have a reminder as to how one school could impact so many soldiers."