Monday, January 08, 2007

Forgot to send the Raindeers...


The crew over at T-Bonetooter's did a great job of sending out over 110+ Christmas packages to the Troops over in Iraq & Afghanistan and they were welcomed by all who got them.

These packages were stuffed with Christmas\Holiday related items and made it there in time for Christmas. Much candy was included as always and is very much welcomed by the children who it is passed on to.

Once again Benny and Dianne, along with the dedicated few, gathered to put these packages together during the busy holiday season here but were very glad to be able to send some Cheer to the troops whenever possible...

Unfortunately it seems that with all the confusion and many packages that were sent out, at over $1,600 in postage, it appears nobody included the package containing the Raindeer. Mike Flook who is staioned in Kalsu with his unit made due with what they had and sent the above photo of how they "improvised"...

Mike has been serving in Iraq working for the Department of Defense as a Firefighter with a crew stationed in Kalsu Iraq which is 45 miles South of Baghdad. Mike's unit has been receiving packages from the "From Our Hearts"

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Very Busy New Years already...


It has been a busy week over at T-Bonetooter’s in Churchville with news that local resident SSG. Herb Harman of Buffalo Gap is now back in the United States from serving in the Army for over a year in downtown Baghdad Iraq. The gang over at T-Bonetooter’s has been sending numerous “Care Packages” to the Troop’s serving in Iraq and Afghanistan thru the “From Our Hearts” program that they developed and Herb’s unit has received many of these packages.

Ssg. Harman’s unit, the “Four-One Element” of the 654th MP Company awarded Dianne and Benny this Award\Pennant in appreciation for their efforts and caring packages…

Also this week Dianne and Benny were visited by Gunnery Sergeant David Provencal U.S.M.C. who’s unit was also the recipient of “Care Packages” from the “From Our Hearts” program…

Gunnery Sergeant Provencal presented Dianne and Benny with the above United States flag and certificate in appreciation of their efforts and thoughtfulness in supporting our troops…

WHSV did a special report on this and can be seen at:

Many local groups have stepped up to the plate in helping and supporting the “From Our Hearts” program over the year and have made it possible for numerous shipments of 150+ packages being sent to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recently the Arbor Hill Church of Staunton Virginia contacted Dianne advising her that their Youth Group wished to help out with the last shipment sent during the Christmas holiday. Once the group found out that the Christmas “Care Package” shipment consisted of over 110 boxes crammed full of Christmas related items and postage was over $1,600, they went back and collected over $540 to show their support!

Numerous local groups, individuals, and families have provided much assistance and support to the “From Our Hearts” program and should be very proud of their efforts and care for our Troops serving in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many do not want to be listed or acknowledged here but they should know that they are very much appreciated by the members of the military, their families, and the members of the “From Our Hearts” program…

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Special Guest Visit...

T-Bonetooter's owner Diane Rankin meets Mike Flook for the first time after he stops by Monday night to help pack more boxes to be sent to the Troops in Iraq & Afghanistan. Mike has been serving in Iraq working for the Department of Defense as a Firefighter with a crew stationed in Kalsu Iraq which is 45 miles South of Baghdad. Mike's unit has been receiving packages from the "From Our Hearts" program for sometime and he made it a point to stop by and meet those responsible for these gifts from home for the troops.

Mike also took the time to meet with TV-3 who stopped by to cover the packing of boxes to be sent out this week. During this time Mike spoke about how the members of his unit have shared the contents of their packages with as many people as possible. He spoke of how the guys treasure each item and are sure to pass some of the "essentials" on to servicemembers who may not get packages from home. He also spoke of driving their fire apparatus along the fenceline so to be able to throw candy and toys to the children that gather to see them. In fact Mike made a request from his teammembers that any items sent to them during the holidays should be toys or items for children for they wish to have something to pass onto the children in the area. Flook also said how much it is appreciated to get packages from 9,000 miles away and from home and people who took the effort to send them something.

Awhile back I ran into Arin Sime at the Shad Planking event and learned that he was running for State Senate in 2007 in the 24th district. I have seen him several times during the past year and enjoy talking with somebody who agrees that both the State and Federal government is taking too much of our hard earned money and not spending it wisely. I was gald to see Arin join in Monday and help pack boxes for the troops and I believe he was very impressed by the amount of effort and supplies that go into these packages. It was great to see him join in and help out in this very special and worthwhile project...

"This was a wonderful evening of community and a great example of neighbors coming together to help neighbors, especially when those neighbors are a world away defending our nation. The little touches and heartfelt appreciation that were put into every item prepared and packed was impressive. It was a real honor for me to be there and contribute in some small way." Arin Sime


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Autumn Visit...

Churchville VA.

A local elementary school heard of the “From Our Hearts” program and wanted to send something special to the troops so the first graders, with some help from their fifth grade “Buddies”, put together some notes for the troops. They also attached a leaf of their choice to their letters so that our Troops can remember for a moment the precious changing of the seasons back home…

A dear friend Rhonda Winfield spends her time visiting injured troops at the Veterans hospital and told me of a recent visit. I asked her to write of the visit and below is what she sent me.
We will be doing one last shipment to the troops for the Holiday season.

More info will follow very soon so please check back often and help us to make this an outstanding “Holiday Shipment” to our Troops…


As I walked toward the entrance, I found myself even more nervous than the first visit a week earlier. I paused in the middle of the sidewalk to look upward and let the enormity of the American flag flying there engulf my senses. It was the largest flag I had ever seen and I found myself in as much awe of it as I had the week previously. While I felt no breeze against my face, the heavens were whispering a flutter directly into her billowing folds and floating her gently against the blue sky. There was a heavy silence here, broken only by the slightest rustling of the silken fibers as she would fall against herself on a down draft. She flowed in slow motion and the world directly beneath her became somehow synchronized to her rhythm. The glory and majesty of her beauty was intoxicating and I prayed that the significance of it was not missed on a single visitor to this place.

I was entering a United States Veteran’s hospital to visit a patient as a favor to a mutual friend. It was an effort to provide a young soldier with a much needed distraction from the nightmare that had quickly become his life. This young Army Ranger Sergeant had just turned twenty-four years old while lying in a hospital bed paralyzed from the neck down. His spinal cord had been severed by a bullet while under enemy attack in Iraq just eight weeks before. When I first visited, he had a ventilator in place and was unable to speak. I walked into the room, as a total stranger, introduced myself and informed his family that we had a friend in common. Not knowing whether my interruption into their very private Hell would be welcome or not, I made my way to the Sergeant’s bedside. He looked at me with pain filled eyes and even though we had never seen one another before, he instantly knew I needed to be here with him. The pain of his injuries was obvious but the pain in his heart was the most unbearable. I believe he could see I came to him a broken being as well. His eyes held me that day. I will never know why we felt an instant comfort with one another but in that understanding I felt the burdens I had come with, lift from my shoulders and was consumed with the force that we secretly shared. Though there were others around us, we were alone in our presence and focused only on one another. Drawn into him by his gaze, I leaned close to his ear, only for him to hear, and whispered, "I know that no one will ever understand what you left behind on that battlefield and that your greatest hurt comes from being here without your boys." He indicated by slightly nodding his head that this was true and I continued, "And I just want you to know that I get that." He had tears in his eyes and he mouthed the words to me, "thank you". We looked at each other with a certain understanding and the rest of the room was left to wonder what was occurring between us. They remained silent in their uncertainly as I placed my face against his and our tears ran down our cheeks together. I stroked his hair and whispered my name to him and told him I would be back in a week to see him again. He indicated that he wanted me to and after giving his family my phone number, I left.

I wasn’t ready to leave the hospital just yet, though. I had asked the nurse’s station for a few names of patients that could use a visitor. Sadly, the list of those who had not received one in months was long. I chose a ward to enter where all of the patients were much older veterans, all suffering from spinal cord injuries. I walked in, after taking a deep breath, and announced loudly that I was just in the neighborhood and wanted to stop by the hero ward. They all looked at me, first startled, then seemingly in shock and finally visibly moved. There delight was that of a child suddenly being given candy and we instantly became fast friends. When I left, I promised them I would return as well. One of them asked where I was from and told me of his days as a young man, before his service in Vietnam, when he visited our valley and walked in the vibrant colored leaves of our fall foliage. His mind was far away when I closed the door behind me and I wanted desperately to bring him the days of that autumn once again.

Now, returning, as promised, I could barely pull myself away from the trance of our nation’s colors. I found it difficult to hold back the tears suddenly surging forth. These men, both the young and the old, had served their flag faithfully and now I was going to try to somehow serve them. I pulled the bag I was carrying a little closer to me, as though by holding it closer to my heart I could keep it pure and sacred until I could deliver its contents to the intended recipients inside.

I went to the ward first. Everyone was asleep except for my friend who shared my love of the Valley. His face sprang to life as he saw me and he rejoiced that I had kept my promise and returned. I told him that I had brought him a gift. I told him I had brought our Valley with me.

My next stop met me with surprise as I saw my young friend without his ventilator. His mother told me that he could say a few words now but I didn’t want him to waste a precious one. I shared my gift with him also. He was grateful for my surprise, both the one in the bag and the one that simply said that I had not forgotten to return to him.
So very different, yet they were so alike. Two completely different strangers sharing love with another unknown and finding all that is good in the world within it. Two different generations, two different eras, two different wars and yet one common uniting factor-they were American patriots.
My soul absorbed so much that day as I watched both men look into my bag at the assortment of leaves from my yard. They both marveled at the vibrant colors and stretched their necks to further inhale the smell of the turning seasons. They both obediently closed their eyes when I asked them to and listened as I crumbled the leaves with my hands. One man, wishing forward toward a future where he might yet experience the changing seasons of his life and still knowing that he would never walk in leaves again. One man, reflecting back into a day long since forgotten when he played with an abandon that he would never reclaim. Both men, however, walked that day with me in our minds.
They both gave me a gift that day, as well. In the ward, my older friend asked me to keep the leaves close by so their smell could stay with him for a while longer. I stroked his cheek until his memories gave way to slumber and I stood in silence watching the rising and falling of his chest, independent of his will, until I felt my own memories filter into a new place in my heart.
Later, when I was leaving the room of my much younger friend, I told him that next year when the leaves were turning; we would sit in my yard together and watch them dance around our heads. He simply managed a smile and then uttered my name.
I have never heard anything so pure as the first word heard from his mouth. I will hear its sweet echo for the rest of my days.

I looked again at the massive flag on my way down the sidewalk. It seemed to be waving me farewell. This piece of cloth is what bound us together. These colors ran through each of us and uniquely we each gave a part of ourselves to it. We were Americans and the fact that we were strangers was something that had been lost on us.

I will return. I will return to my new friends and for ones that I haven’t found there yet. I will return to give and know I will leave the one who truly received.

Christmas Push...


The gang over at T-bonetooter's and the "From Our Hearts" group are about to announce their plans for a big Christmas Push to send Holiday related packages to our troops serving in Iraq & Afghanistan. It will focus on providing something from home for the troops to have during the upcoming holiday season...

Look for more info to follow....

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Hey Dianne,
I am sorry it has been a busy week here----the insurgents have used 9-11 as a holiday to strike us repeativly with morters. The chickens were awesome and in fact one has been mounted on our heavy rescue as a hood ornament ---- you will see smitty feeding and watering it in the picture--lolololol. The second pic is of a morter attack that landed outside a tent that we had to go inspect and then condem. The stuff was moved out and you can see all the sharpnel holes. Our little surprise shall be to you any day now--takes two to three weeks to get to you. Let me know when you get it. Once again ---THANK YOU---please pass that one to your crew. We love you and want to thank you once again from our hearts.


From Our Hearts will be sponsoring "Candle Lite of Love" BINGO
on October 1st, 2006 at the Churchville Fire Department...

Door open at: 2pm
Bingo starts at: 3pm

For tickets or information call: Kelly 480-3739 or Cheryl 490-8500

Presale Prices: $5 a card, 4 for $15, 6 for $25,
At the door price: $5 a card...

Proceeds to benefit "From Our Hearts"

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Packages get passed along....


Mrs. Rankin,
I wanted to write and personally thank your for all of the support you and all the volunteers in Churchville and in the Shenandoah Valley are providing to the troops over here in Iraq. I am with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Division stationed in Kirkuk, Iraq. My mission here, as part of a Military Transition Team (MiTT), is to train the 2 Brigade, 4th Division Iraqi Army staff to assume control of and take the lead in counter-insurgency operations (operations against the terrorists in civilian talk). I am part of an 11 man team that lives on K-1, an Iraqi base approximately 8 kilometers away from the U.S. Forward Operating Base Warrior. My daily responsibilities include working with the civil affairs officer, the public affairs officer, the legal officer and the Imam (the equivalent to our US chaplain). I try to coordinate and synchronize all of the projects each of these officers are conducting as well as mentor, guide and professionally develop each one of them. I will tell you that they have come a long way since we first got here and appreciate the US troops and all of the support we provide them. The cities and villages within our area of operation also continue to improve and with the help of the Iraqi and US armies move ahead. Of of the things I have been blessed to be a part of is the civil affairs section here. Their job is to improve the public perception of the Iraqi Army and spend a lot of time and energy assisting the needy children and less privelaged in the local communities. I have attached some pictures from a couple of the joint Iraqi and US projects that we have conducted. Some of the supplies you provide go to these children while the rest go to very appreciative soldiers. Thanks again for all of your support. People like all of you enable us to accomplish our mission. I love you all and hope that God blesses each and every one you.


Richard Dixon
CPT, US Army

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Augusta County Fair 2006

Augusta County Fair
Republican Party Booth

Ssgt. Herb Harman of Churchville stopped by the Republican Booth at the Augusta County Fair with his family on Wednesday for a "Quick" visit that turned into hours with numerous people meeting and thanking him for his service to our country.
Herb also spent time at the "From Our Hearts" booth and spoke with several people on how much these packages from home are welcomed by the troops. Herb's squad is the "Four-One Element" of the 654th MP CO and is serving in Baghdad Iraq where Herb will be returning to in a few weeks. The "Four-One Element" is one of the units that "From Our Hearts" supports and receives numerous packages approximately every 10 days from home

"What a treat it was to walk into our booth and see Herb there! There were tears in many sets of eyes as people came by to wish Sgt Harman well and to thank him for his service to our nation. Herb spoke about his duty in Iraq and actually how well things are going over there in Baghdad. He said that the media is so incredibly slanted that is makes the soldiers serving over there sick to their stomachs. He said the people of Iraq are very appreciative of the US and often thank the soldiers for their freedom. Herb is learning Arabic and told me that the Iraqis are great people who love to talk religion. They respect each other for their deep religious faith."

"Some stories, I guess, just never make it to the airwaves over here."
Chris Saxman

Republican Delegate Chris Saxman talks with Ssgt. Harman about the squads work in Baghdad and how we can support them.