|A UMNS photo courtesy of Shauna Fleming
Fleming kicked off National Military Appreciation Month by thanking
Army reservists during an event at the Talladega Superspeedway.
May 5, 2005
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
A 16-year-old United Methodist from California is the national spokesperson for National Military Appreciation Month.
designated May as National Military Appreciation Month last year and
Shauna Fleming wants it to be the “biggest and best” celebration ever.
year she started a campaign to collect and send a million thank you
notes to America’s military service men and women. She’s been there,
done that and has the picture of herself with President George W. Bush
to prove it.
is well on her way to her next goal of collecting 1.4 million letters—
symbolically one for every person serving in the Armed Forces. She has
also written a book about her experience A MILLION THANKS, published by Doubleday Books.
Award nominated actor Gary Sinise surprised Fleming at a studio in Los
Angeles and offered to help her promote National Military Month. Country
music star John Michael Montgomery lent her “Letters From Home,” to use
as her theme song and NASCAR drivers have joined with her to generate
more letters for the military.
this month, Fleming will be speaking at Light of the Canyon United
Methodist Church, Orange, Calif. and telling her church family “any one
can make a difference.”
faith is the most important part of my life,” she says. “I just
remember God has a bigger plan for me and sees the big picture. That
just gives me so much strength and so much confidence in who I am.”
seems to be something she has in great supply. Speaking to United
Methodist News Service on her lunch break at Lutheran High School in
Orange, Calif., seems like just another day in the life for her.
mom has always told me when I was four I could have run her house if
she would have let me,” she says, laughing. “I have always been strong
willed and very determined, but I never would have thought I would be so
comfortable speaking in public.”
Since then, she has done so many radio interviews she could “do them in my sleep.”
never would have imagined I would be like that but I sincerely enjoy it
and I love going to places to speak. I love letting people know the
experiences that I have had, letting them know they can make a
difference as well.”
was challenged by her father to collect a million thank you notes for
the military last year. He and Alice Wax, who pushed Congress to
designate May as National Appreciation Month, have started an Armed
Forces Education Fund, a charity for the children of fallen soldiers.
thought doing something for Military Appreciation Month would just be
awesome especially since it was just starting out,” she explains. “I saw
after Sept. 11 that yellow ribbons went up, flags went out but as the
months wore on, there was not so much patriotism anymore. I want to get
people excited about it and let them know they can do whatever they want
to honor the military.”
May includes VE Day, Military Spouse Day, Loyalty Day, Armed Forces Day/Week, National Day of Prayer and Memorial Day.
|A UMNS photo courtesy of Shauna Fleming
Fleming thanks a member of an Honor Color Guard for his service. She is
the national spokesperson for National Military Appreciation Month.
important month therefore, honors those Americans who have given their
lives in defense of our nation’s freedom and the men and women now
serving in uniform,” says a statement on the Web site, http://www.nmam.org/.
has received many phone calls, emails and handwritten letters from the
men and women in Iraq who have gotten some of the thank you letters. One
solider told her because of the program he now has 30 pen pals. “He
doesn’t have much of a family or close friends and he didn’t really get
much mail,” she says.
of the guys expect letters from family and friends but when you get
them for complete strangers, that’s a whole different thing.”
Marine base in Iraq sent Fleming a thank you letter signed by everyone
and an “American flag that was flown over their base with Iraqi dirt all
wasn’t looking for appreciation out of this at all, I was just looking
to make a difference in other people’s lives but when I get letters from
troops, it makes it so worth it and just puts a huge smile on my face.”
kicked off the month at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama and
plans to end the month in Washington with Sinise, when his “Lieutenant
Dan Band,” will perform. In between, Fleming says she will be out there
doing whatever is asked of her to promote Military Appreciation Month.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.