HOUSTON – Apache helicopter pilot James “Robin” Waltress wore a red scarf on Christmas Day as he flew missions in Afghanistan.
“I just told people I was Santa Claus,” said Waltress. “The guys on my helicopter gave me a hard time about it. You could see it a mile away against my uniform.”
The scarf – along with candy, fudge, toiletries and gum – was mailed to Waltress at his base half a world away by the employees of Silly Whispers. And Waltress showed up on Valentine’s Day to return the favor with a plaque, flag and humble thank you.
“Unless you have been stationed overseas, you don’t know how much a letter or package like that means,” said Waltress, a 25-year veteran. “The holidays are really tough. I’ve got family, kids – it was good to know someone cared.”
Waltress presented Silly Whispers with a plaque showing his aircraft and signed by his crew. He also presented a flag that he carried on a mission Christmas Day.
“We adopted three soldier at Christmas,” said Becky Johnson, of Silly Whispers. “Ann Henry found out about Robin and we immediately realized this was the thing to do.”
Silly Whispers embroidered each scarf, quickly cooked up a big batch of fudge and went shopping for kleenex, lip balm, hand wipes, gum and candy. They also sent a special “D. Doll” created by the folks at Silly Whispers for those dealing with stress.
Waltress said while his comrades made fun about the scarf, they all wanted the fudge and candy.
“It’s great to get something from home like that,” said Waltress. “I tried to share with my buddies. I will have to admit I ate most of the brownies myself.”
Johnson said they were told there was only a 10-day lag from mailing it from Houston to its arrival in Afghanistan.
“All of us have family or at least know someone who has been in the military or is in the military,” said Johnson. “What we did really wasn’t much compared to what these soldiers do every day.”
Waltress, of Pontotoc, said he has always been proud to serve and Friday’s visit to the Houston store was just his way of saying thank you.
“This package came at just the right time and did a lot for our morale,” said Waltress. “These were people I didn’t really know. There was no way I could not come here and say thank you.”
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