Country star shares thanks from troops
Before Tuesday, May 5, Jessica Alatorre was your typical second grade student at Arbolita Elementary, working on homework and planning for a summer filled with trips to visit family and spend time at the beach. After Tuesday, Jessica, as well as the La Habra community, became the face of hope and encouragement to soldiers deployed in Kandahar, Afghanistan after recognition from country music star Trace Adkins during a special visit to La Habra.
It began with two projects — Hearts for Heroes and Treat the Troops. On February 12, the La Habra Library hosted Hearts for Heroes, giving the community the opportunity to write encouraging notes to American soldiers deployed overseas.
Alatorre, one of the students that receives help with her homework from a high school student through the award-winning Homework Help group, contributed an intricately-decorated card for the cause during her homework session that day.
That card, along with several others, got put in a box with over 1,000 Girl Scout cookies donated by community members through Treat the Troops to be sent overseas. When purchasing Girl Scout cookies, local buyers could also donate five dollars to send a box to the troops through the Treat the Troops program.
The many boxes of Girl Scout cookies, letters from local Girl Scouts and through the Hearts for Heroes, were all sent in a large shipment paid for by the City of La Habra’s Operation Stay Connected program.
Enter Trace Adkins. His involvement with the United Service Organization brought him on a tour bringing entertainment to soldiers overseas, specifically Kandahar, Afghanistan.
While enjoying a cup of coffee with Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Wiles of C Co, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, he noticed the wall piled high with boxes of Girl Scout cookies and a special box filled with handmade cards.
“I just started looking through them and thought, ‘this is so cool that kids take the time to sit down and make these cards by hand and send them to the soldiers’,” Trace Adkins said during his visit to La Habra.
Adkins was so inspired by the creativity and hard work put into Alatorre’s card and the large giving from the Girl Scouts that he wanted to stop by and give encouragement in return with his presence.
“I wanted to come here and tell you today that your cookies made it to Kandahar Afghanistan,” Adkins said. “I ate some of ‘em, so I know they got there.”
Also sending his thanks was Lt. Col. Wiles.
“Thank you for your cookies, they mean a lot to all of us in Kandahar, Afghanistan,” Wiles wrote in a letter read by Adkins during his visit. “We all really appreciate your thoughts and gifts. Thank you again, Lt. Col. Bill Wiles.”
Adkins finished his time by presenting the letter from Lt. Col. Wiles, a photo of Adkins and Wiles in Afghanistan with the two letters and his black cowboy hat to Alatorre.
“I just wanted to come and see this young lady and tell her how much they appreciate this,” Adkins added.
Even at a young age, Jessica realized the impact her small gesture made for the troops overseas.
“It’s really not fair cause people from their families are missing them and they are far, far away,” Alatorre said.
Members of the community saw this kind gesture by Adkins as a point of pride for La Habra and the collaborative effort to support and encourage the troops.
“This isn’t just about Girl Scouts,” said Sandra San Miguel, the Girl Scouts service unit manager for La Habra, “This is about the city and about the people, everybody coming together.”
San Miguel was an integral part in getting Adkins connected with Alatorre, as well as Jill Patterson, the branch manager of the La Habra Library.
After Adkins’ appearance, Alatorre was also made an official Girl Scout by the La Habra troop. With her huge smile, she held her fingers up as the Girl Scout sign and recited the pledge.
“It was really heartwarming,” Patterson said of the day’s events. “Councilwoman Rose Espinoza always said, ‘La Habra, a caring community’, and I feel that La Habra really is a family-friendly community.”
By Ashleigh Fox / La Habra Journal