By Mr Paul Steven Ghiringhelli (Drum)March 1, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The eldest daughter of a Fort Drum officer wants Soldiers stationed here to know she appreciates their service.
So she sold extra Girl Scout cookies this year and appeared Friday at the USO on post to hand out dozens of boxes donated to the troops.
"I wanted to thank Soldiers for protecting us," said 6-year-old Annabelle Sweet. "I felt they would like a cookie because they are so far away from their mommies."
The first-grader from Copenhagen Central School in Copenhagen belongs to Girl Scout Daisy Troop 50260. Her parents say the idea to have cookies donated to Soldiers was completely her own.
Annabelle sold 150 boxes to Family and friends, persuading many of them to donate their
purchase to Soldiers. She ultimately brought in nearly 60 boxes to the USO.
"Having this particular Girl Scout come in with a donation was incredibly moving," said Karen Clark, Fort Drum USO director. "This proves to me that people … of all ages are supporting our troops.
"It was quite endearing," she added, "and of course, she's adorable."
USO staff placed Annabelle's cookies on a wheeled cart and the young uniformed Girl Scout pressed her way through the busy lunchtime crowd at the USO, offering each towering Soldier free Tagalongs, Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Samoas and Savannah Smiles.
"Thank you for your service," she said with each handout.
One 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldier, Staff Sgt. Darrin Hafeli, accepted her gift and then reached for the patch on his right arm. Thanking Annabelle for her gesture, he offered her his 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment patch.
Annabelle took it and wore it proudly on her own sleeve.
In addition to giving the free boxes to Soldiers and Family Members at the USO, Clark said staff members planned to hand out the cookies at the Rapid Deployment Facility to Soldiers returning from Afghanistan.
Clark praised Annabelle's volunteerism, hoping it would encourage others in the community to follow her lead.
"A little 6-year-old, who knows so little about politics and everything else, yet she knows to support the troops," Clark marveled. "It's huge to realize that people of this age and this generation are embracing volunteerism and (donating) to the community."
The Sweets arrived at Fort Drum in January 2005. Annabelle was born in October of that year, and the couple's 3-year-old twins -- Bennett and Charlotte -- were born in 2008.
A part of the young girl's motivation came from personal experience. Annabelle's dad, Lt. Col. Erick W. Sweet II, served as 10th Combat Aviation Brigade's rear detachment commander during the unit's recent deployment to Afghanistan.
He spent a year in Iraq when she was an infant and then deployed there again when she was 4.
Annabelle said it made her "sad" when her father was away and that she remembers especially missing story times with him before bed.
Her sensitivity was evident Friday as she stood before TV cameras and explained why she supported the troops.
"I can tell that she really understands what Soldiers like, because her dad's a Soldier," Clark said.
"This war has been going on a long time -- her whole life," she added. "All she has known is a nation at war. And at 6 years old, she knows to support the troops. That's powerful."
On Sunday, Annabelle's father left for the Precommand Course in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. This summer, he will assume command of 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.
Sweet said he was grateful for the public's support for his daughter because it shows how appreciative the community is of its Soldiers and anyone wanting to help them.
"Not only am I proud of my daughter -- because this was absolutely her idea -- but it's nice to know how many people responded in such a way that (shows how much) they support the troops," he said. "As a Soldier, that always means a lot to me."
Annabelle's mother was proud too. She said that beyond her daughter's consideration for the troops, the real lesson was in her learning to be a better person.
"I'm always proud of everything that my daughter does," Lisa Sweet said. "But this was really exciting because she learned about what being a Daisy means -- sharing and caring. She listened to her 'Girl Scout Promise.'"
Annabelle then lifted her three middle fingers and recited the promise.
"On my honor," she said, "I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law."