America Supports You: Milestone Card Presented in Baghdad
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2006 World Wrestling Entertainment personalities delivered a milestone “thank you” message to a U.S. servicemember in Baghdad today.
WWE champion John Cena and Army 1st Lt. Shannon Terry talk to reporters after Cena and his WWE colleagues delivered a special letter of support to Terry in Baghdad, Dec. 8. The letter was the 2.6 millionth letter in California teenager Shauna Fleming’s “A Million Thanks” campaign to collect 2.6 million letters of support for the troops. The 2.6 million letters symbolize one for every servicemember in the nation’s active and reserve component military forces. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army 1st Lt. Shannon Terry accepted the 2.6 millionth message generated by “A Million Thanks,” a troop-support effort that’s the brainchild of Orange, Calif., teenager Shauna Fleming.
A Million Thanks and the WWE are members of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting ways Americans and the corporate sector are supporting the nation’s servicemembers. WWE personalities are visiting deployed servicemembers on a tour sponsored by Armed Forces Entertainment.
Fleming started A Million Thanks with the goal of gathering a million notes of gratitude for servicemembers fighting in the global war on terrorism. When she reached that goal, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers challenged her to go for 2.6 million, which symbolically gives each servicemember in the nation’s active and reserve components a letter.
That 2.6 millionth letter was delivered today in front of a cheering crowd of about 1,000 servicemembers.
“I have always wanted to go to Iraq to personally hand out the letters I have received from Americans,” Fleming said. “But since I can’t be there, I know a huge piece of what I do will be there instead.”
On her behalf, the WWE presented the framed letter to Terry with a letter of appreciation from Fleming. The soldier knew she was receiving it, but was a bit shocked by the letter carriers. “I was very pleasantly surprised,” the WWE fan said.
It was a job the WWE personalities were happy to have. “Being a part of the WWE, along with Armed Forces Entertainment, and being able to come over here to do what we do is a blessing,” John Cena said. “But being able to bring a good word of support and good will from home is absolutely fantastic.”
Perhaps even more special to Terry than the method of delivery was who made the card -- Amber and Sean Siegfried of Easton, Pa., for whom she had a special message.
“Continue with your positive attitude, and being an inspiration to us over here,” she told the siblings. “You probably don’t realize this now, being so young, but you really do make an impact with that kind of attitude, and we really appreciate it.”
Amber and Sean said they created the card because servicemembers protect America. “I wanted to thank them because they protect me and my family every day, and protect our rights and freedoms,” Amber, 12, said.
It was Sean who first learned of A Million Thanks at school. However, the duo teamed up to decide what it should look like, and they decided that depicting a servicemember holding a child’s hand would best symbolize their sentiment. “Showing a servicemember holding a child’s hand is a symbol of us caring for what they do in Iraq,” Sean said.
Fleming said children have been the biggest contributors to her campaign, so she’s pleased that Sean and Amber’s letter arrived when it did. “I think it’s wonderful that the 2.6 millionth letter we opened was from two wonderful kids from … Pennsylvania,” she said.
While the Siegfried siblings were excited that their card was the 2.6 millionth card A Million Thanks received, Sean was even more excited about who delivered it to Terry. “I was very excited to hear the WWE wrestlers were handing the letter to the soldier,” he said. “I am a huge WWE fan.”
Fleming said she now knows mountain climbers feel when they reach the summit. “Hitting 2.6 (million letters) was the top of the mountain,” she said.
But having reached that goal does not mean Fleming’s job supporting the troops is complete. She will continue to collect and distribute letters of support for the troops, and next year brings a new venture as well, she said.
Fleming said visits to wounded troops recovering from their injuries in the United States made her want to do more.
“For 2007, we will be working on fundraising to provide assistance to wounded soldiers and their families,” she said. “I saw that there is going to be a huge need for helping soldiers with getting their homes set up to handle wheelchairs and other special needs.”