Letter: Season’s Beanies to our troops in Afghanistan

As we enter the season of hope and joy, I am happy to report that 657 Rappahannock County Beanie Babies (that’s more than four Army infantry companies) recently were deployed to a U.S. Army unit stationed near Kandahar, Afghanistan. Yes, that Kandahar, which is forever in the headlines.

The bounty of plush goodwill ambassadors came as the generous response by county residents to the launching of the “Rappahannock Beanie Baby Roll Call” last New Year’s Day. Residents delivered boxes of Beanies to the Link in Sperryville, and to Real Estate III and Rose Hill Veterinary Practice near Washington. Tubs brimming with the little fellows were brought to my house in Amissville. After receiving their GI haircuts and allocation of tiny uniforms (just kidding), they began two months of strenuous training to prepare them for their new role as morale-boosters for the troops or adored gift for Afghan children.

Of the almost 700 successful trainees, there were 187 different Beanie Babies represented in their ranks. The most numerous was Strut the Chicken, with 13. Who knew? Perhaps we should exchange the bald eagle for a stalwart Rhode Island Red as our national symbol?

Other numerous representatives were: Blizzard the Cat and Mell the Koala Bear (both 12);, Spike the Rhino (10); Jolly the Walrus (9); Pincers the Lobster, Peanut the Elephant, Chip the Kitty, Waddle the Penguin and Valentino the Bear (8); and Twigs the Giraffe, Stinky the Skunk, Pouch the Kangaroo, Rainbow the Iguana, Nuts the Squirrel, Claude the Crab, Inch the Worm, Dotty the Dalmation, Congo the Orangutan, Ziggy the Zebra and Happy the Hippo (7).

Deployment was delayed for some weeks during the summer as troops from Iraq were redeployed to Afghanistan. In early October, we received the ‘go-ahead’ to send our little guys to Forward Operating Base Walton, where a battalion of Army military police eagerly awaited the arrival of the 20 U.S. Postal Service flat-rate boxes.

By now, as the cold Afghan winter closes in, we can imagine Bessie the Cow giving cheer by a military laptop at FOB Walton and Cubbie the Bear bringing a smile to the face of an Afghan child. None of this would have been possible without the generous support of the citizens of Rappahannock County.

To the many anonymous donors, I give heartfelt thanks. I also would like to name some very special people who made this impressive deployment possible. The family of Emily Hilscher, the lovely girl who was murdered by the gunman at Virginia Tech, made all of us cry one day at Rose Hill Veterinary Practice, when they donated the Beanies beloved by Emily and her sister Erica. Jan Makela cried as she bade farewell to Beanies that had once adorned her son, Josh’s, childhood bedroom. I also thank Hal Hunter and my dear friend Lisa McCauley Allen for cash donations that went far to cover postage costs of $12 per shipping box. And I especially thank the Link, Real Estate III and Rose Hill Veterinary Practice for their ongoing support.

The Rappahannock Beanie Baby Roll Call continues into 2011 – really, as long as there are Beanies in Rappahannock County and American troops defending us in Iraq and Afghanistan. Have a wonderful holiday season, and know that a bit of us is bringing comfort to people many miles away.

Kindest regards,

Cathie Shiff