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Thanking Gavin: Boy's holiday card amuses, inspires deployed troops

  • Published
  • By Maj. Sean Papworth
  • NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan
The card posted on the wall consisted of just four short words and the owner's name. It read, "Hope you make it - Gavin."

This simple message from a grade school holiday card at the entry to the dining facility on our small Forward Operating Base in Kabul, Afghanistan, brought no small amount of joy and quite a bit of laughter to all who saw it. The placement was perfect: taped to the wall, above the only trash can in the check-in and hand washing area everyone goes through before going inside to eat. Every single deployed member saw these four words and their author's name before every meal during our most festive season.

But, though it made us laugh, this one-liner carried so much weight for so many people, including me.

To me, this short saying had a massive impact in spite of being only four words long. I thought, "This young Gavin is wise beyond his years." So with just a concise message on that holiday card, he wished me well -- while being slightly realistic about the role I lived as a deployed member of our expeditionary military service. I may not make it, but he hopes I do.

That is a profound comfort from a presumed grade-schooler. It turned out to be the one message I adopted as a deployed state of mind. So with that simple thought in mind, those of us who were deployed here during the last holiday season adopted Gavin's words as our favorite saying.

Going on a mission? "Hope you make it." Going on leave? "Hope you make it." Going to the restroom? You guessed it: "Hope you make it!"

Gavin's message took root and carried on well past the holiday season. By this summer, many of the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines who originally saw the card had redeployed (They made it!), but the message lived on. The card was taken down and its whereabouts are unknown. But new teammates now pass along young Gavin's words and are told the tale of its enduring meaning. In fact, the popularity of the saying has grown within our organization and has since been immortalized in the form of posters, coffee cups, and recently uniform "morale" patches. We may not be able to wear them on duty, but you can bet a lot of us have one!

"Hope you make it." What a timeless message from a young American in support of his country's troops in Afghanistan!

I hope to meet Gavin one day and let him know the great joy that his little phrase brought to our happy lot. I know that I and those working with me will not forget this saying. It became a significant part of our deployed life.

And after successfully completing 365 days deployed, all I want to say in conclusion is ... THANK YOU, Gavin -- "I made it!"