America Supports You: Military Wins Popular Vote in Kid's Election
By Master Sgt. Gerrold Johnson, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
DOWNERS GROVE, Ill., Nov. 22, 2004 Children from across the country held a special nationwide election and chose the military as most deserving of a caring gesture. And to the victors in the Great Community Cookie Election of 2004 go the spoils: 2,004 chocolate chip cookies!
Staff Sgt. Eddy Nubine, U.S. Army Recruiting, plays the
national anthem on the saxophone as Marine recruiter, Sgt. Bradley Luke stands
at attention. Photo by Master Sgt. Gerrold Johnson, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps were given 100 inaugural cookies to take back to their local units. The rest of the cookies will be mailed to troops in Iraq.
Among the candidates for the high office of "most deserving of a caring gesture" were doctors and nurses, firefighters and police officers, and homeless-shelter workers.
According to Kids Voting USA officials, the military was in a virtual tie with homeless-shelter workers in many of the 100 participating U.S. cities. However, once the national numbers came in, the military eked out a victory with 37 percent of the popular vote.
"America's kids have spoken," said Dave Horton, senior vice president for brand management for Doubletree Hotels. "Americans need to remember how important voting is, and we hope to help instill that important message at a young age."
Thousands of students ages 6 to 11 years old cast their votes through a specially designed online voting system. Students from two 3rd grade classes at Butterfield Elementary School in Downers Grove, Ill., saw first hand how their votes made a difference as they gave renowned Doubletree cookies to local representatives from each of the military services.
These Illinois students are being joined by thousands of kids across the country and more than 125 Doubletree Hotels, the corporate sponsor of the "Teaching Kids to Care" initiative, to ultimately provide the military with 250,000 chocolate chip cookies.
After a brief ceremony, the children were allowed to ask questions of the military representatives. One question raised a few eyebrows on the military panel. "What's a missing-man formation?" asked one student.
"Wow, good question," was the initial response from Tech. Sgt. Isaac Guerrero, an Air Force recruiter and Operation Enduring Freedom veteran. He went on to use the aerial salute during the late President Ronald Reagan's funeral in June as an example.
"When the jets are flying together in a row," he said using both his hands to demonstrate, "and one of them peels off up into the sky, that symbolizes the person who has died going up to heaven."
There was an audible "ooh" from the captivated 3rd graders.
Other questions were more expected. "What's war like?" another student innocently asked.
"It's like life -- an everyday struggle," said Sgt. Bradley Luke, a Marine Corps recruiter and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. "The most important thing is to make sure that your family and friends are okay."
Kids Voting USA is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to teaching young people about the importance of voting and that each vote is a voice. According to a press release, KVUSA exists to teach young people that voting is part of the American democratic system and social responsibility. As part of the KVUSA program, students take part in an authentic voting experience that mirrors the official voting process.
According to KVUSA research, there are 14 percent more registered 18-year-old voters in communities with KVUSA programs.
"Teaching Kids to Care" is an educational outreach initiative in its third year of existence. It was started by Doubletree Hotels to encourage kids to start making conscious decisions about how they can personally show they care about their communities. The program has been reinforced by a survey which showed that 60 percent of parents across America feel the subject of community service should be emphasized as much or more than traditional subjects in their children's schools.
As for the cookies, in recent years Doubletree Hotels began providing their customers with chocolate chip cookies. The warm cookies are symbolic of the warm feeling of home and are a way to say thank you, company officials said. In the days ahead, servicemembers deployed to Iraq will also get a thank you that tastes a lot like home.
(Army Master Sgt. Gerrold Johnson is assigned to U.S. Army Public Affairs- Midwest.)