Because the wars and conflicts in the Middle East no longer receive the front page stories and round-the-clock coverage they once did, it can be easy, for some, to forget that tens of thousands of American troops remain deployed all over the world.
Some are in war zones such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. And even still, the United States maintains troops in large legacy missions from generations ago, in such allied lands as Germany, South Korea and Japan.
It’s estimated that some 200,000 service members are currently deployed. As we said, this may be easy to forget for some, but not for the many military families and spouses who are without their loved ones over the holidays.
And there’s someone else who hasn’t forgotten: Ninety-One School sixth-grader Bella Capra. For two years, she has been quietly sending letters to deployed soldiers, as just one small way she can show them their service is remembered and appreciated.
As Bella explained to us during a recent interview at Gwynn’s Coffeehouse, she was inspired after hearing the story of Alleen Cooper, a 98-year-old grandmother who has written thousands of letters to troops overseas.
It takes a special person to hear about someone sending 6,000 letters to deployed service members and think, “Hey — I could do that.” It takes someone like Bella Capra.
And there’s more. It just so happens one of her classmates this year, Morgan Montgomery, has a brother who is currently serving in Afghanistan. His name is Ayden Ronning, and he’s also a Canby High School graduate, class of 2016.
In his honor, Bella has taken it upon herself to not only send letters but organized a group of friends last month to put together care packages for his entire unit for Christmas. The packages included homemade Christmas “countdown calendars,” thank you letters and Christmas cards.
Bella sent the care packages the week before Thanksgiving to make sure they arrive on time.
“It’s pretty sweet,” her mother, Christy Capra, said. “She is now collecting thank you cards and holiday cards from friends and family members to send out next week with more treats.”
Bella told us that her little project seems to be making a big impact on all those who hear about it.
In Bella’s “spare” time, Christy says she plays soccer and practices — not kidding — indoor skydiving. She’s currently training for the U.S. Indoor Skydiving Open National Championship in January. (Last year, she took second place in the junior freestyle category.)
“She stays busy,” her mother says.
Yeah. No kidding.
Ayden’s mother, Kari Ronning-Montgomery, says it’s “heartwarming” to see the community support overseas service members like her son, even more so when it’s something that is so organic and grassroots.
“While we are a military family, we recognize it’s by choice,” she says. “We are very proud, but modest about it. We are just so amazed by Bella, and the good she is bringing. It would be great if it became contagious for all our military.”
Kari said her son and his unit mates have received their care packages already. They said they loved everything and wanted to be sure the girls knew they all said, “Thank you.”
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