America Supports You: Festival Queens Undertake ‘Operation Rhinestone’
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 23, 2008 In celebration of Military Appreciation Month, more than 100 festival queens will gather in Opelousas, La., on May 10 for “Operation Rhinestone.”
The ladies, ages 7 to 23, will record messages of support for a DVD the Thank You Foundation will send to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan throughout May. In addition to their verbal messages, each festival queen will write a note of support to be included with the discs.
“We are very excited to be a part of this project,” said John Guinn, president and founder of The Thank You Foundation. “These girls spend so much of their own money and time to serve their communities, and now they are going above and beyond to help say ‘Thank you’ to those who have given so much for our freedom.”
The foundation, which expresses appreciation and gratitude for those who serve or have served in the military, found inspiration for Operation Rhinestone in someone just barely old enough to participate in a pageant herself.
Morgan Landry, 7, grew up in a military family and wanted to do something special for Louisiana soldiers.
Her parents, Miranda and Michael Landry Sr., wanted to encourage her and began searching for help. Their quest led them to The Thank You Foundation, which orchestrated a similar project with professional athletes in Cincinnati last year. It also worked with Pennsylvania Online Learners to produce and send a special multimedia presentation to troops serving overseas earlier this year.
“I am so touched and proud of this young girl,” said Robin Abshire, director of Louisiana’s Spice and Music Festival. “She realizes that her daddy spent much of her life away and has learned he did it not only for us to be free and safe but to keep his baby girls free and safe.
“Our soldiers have given so much for total strangers and as we all know, here in Louisiana, we find just about anything to celebrate with our festivals, and our soldiers are missing out,” Abshire added. “This is Morgan’s way of sending our festivals to our soldiers.”
Once the DVDs are produced, volunteers from the Thank You Foundation will pack them into care packages along with items such as soap, toothpaste and food. Each box also will include the cards signed by the festival queens.
The Thank You Foundation, a supporter of the Defense Department’s “America Supports You” program, has sent more than 25,000 cards signed by school children to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and to veterans in the states.
America Supports You connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.