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America Supports You: Diner Helps Patrons Support Troops

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

FAIRFAX, Virginia, April 6, 2005 – Though the words were barely legible, the spelling was most creative and the sentences were a little awkward, young Sara's message was very clear.

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Brittany LeVay, 16, prepares a care package for troops at the Silver Diner in Fairfax, Va., April 5. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
  

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"Please come back, we miss you so much," she proudly said she wrote on a white sheet of paper, a message she hopes to send to servicemembers overseas fighting the war on terror.

At the Silver Diner restaurant here April 5, nearly a dozen children wrote similar messages of support during the diner's Kids Night event, at which every Tuesday children gather to have dinner with parents and to do arts and crafts or watch local magician Noland Montgomery perform tricks.

Stephanie LeVay, who manages the diner, said that because many of the restaurant's staff have friends in the military, and with May 21 being Armed Forces Day, the staff decided to do something to show their support and geared Kids Night around that idea.

"We wanted the kids to understand that we must support our troops and show them that we care and that we appreciate what they are doing for us," she said.

Noelle Buice seems to understand that purpose. Too young to write a letter of support, the 4-year-old drew a picture instead. When asked what her message to troops was, she responded -- without any coaching from her father, Erik -- "Thank you for keeping me safe."

Several servicemembers were on hand for the event.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ramiro Leiva dropped by from a local recruiting station and, along with Army soldiers, handed out small gifts such as key chains and stickers.

Leiva said the kids get excited when they see a Marine in uniform. "They definitely get a kick out of it, but not only Marines, any branch of service," he said.

His presence was especially nice for Michaela Bennett.

Donning Leiva's headgear and being extra careful not to touch the brim, the 8-year-old said she hopes to one day wear the Corps uniform to show that "girls can do everything that boys can do."

Bennett said she also wants be just like her grandfather, Bob Mason, a 30-year Marine veteran who taught her to sing "The Marines' Hymn."

Bennett's message of support went out directly to the Marines. "I want to thank them for saving our country. They are doing a great job," she said.

That kind of response from children gives April Rose, 21, a good feeling inside, she said. A college student and waitress at the diner, Rose said the letters and drawings are "really touching." "It really gives you a great feeling to see what these kids are doing," she said.

That kind of support also is what servicemembers need, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Cacelli Bristol from Fairfax's Army recruiting station.

"Our servicemembers need to see support like this," she said. "It makes them get up every morning and say, 'Hey I know what I'm out here for, I'm out here for the little ones that are supporting me."

The letters of support are just one of the ways the Silver Diner in Fairfax is reaching out to the military.

At the diner's entrance sits a big red, white and blue box that is stuffed with books and magazines that patrons have donated to the troops. Another box is filled with other donated items, such as coffee, tea and other nonperishable items, to be sent to troops as well. LeVay said the diner has been collecting donations over the past month by encouraging patrons to bring in whatever they can.

"We are very community-oriented," she said. "We want to give back, and helping out our troops is one of the ways we are giving back.

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America Supports You

Click photo for screen-resolution imageMichaela Bennett, 8, and her grandfather, former Marine and 30-year veteran Bob Mason, join and Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ramiro Leiva of Marine Recruiting Substation Chantilly, Va., during the Kids Night letter writing campaign at the Silver Diner in Fairfax, Va., April 5. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNoelle Buice, 4, composes a letter with the help of Gloria Cuyutupac, a hostess at the Silver Diner in Fairfax, Va., April 5. Noelle was one of several students who came to write letters of support for the troops overseas. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSara, 6, holds up the letter she wrote to troops during a letter writing campaign at the Silver Diner in Fairfax, Va., April 5. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA  
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