From Brenda comes this story about a young boy who is part of our military family. From the Fort Leavenworth Lamp (story no longer active on the site):
By Tisha Johnson | Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, April 16, 2009 8:20 AM CDT
A kind act toward Soldiers by a woman in South Carolina has resulted in Soldiers from Fort Leavenworth and all over the world giving her son encouragement to fight brain cancer.
Two days before Thanksgiving 2008, a group of Soldiers eating at a restaurant in Colombia, S.C., were surprised when they discovered their lunch had been paid for.
Rachel Pertile tried to pay the bill anonymously, but was caught and thanked by the Soldiers before she could leave the restaurant. The day after Thanksgiving, Pertile's 5-year-old son, Evan, was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Evan, now 6 years old, has had two neurosurgeries, radiation and is now having chemotherapy. All of his treatments have been at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. In January, Pertile was on a flight making her way from Memphis back to her home in Colombia when she broke down in tears.
"It was the first time I had gone home since we had ,come to St. Jude's and we have three other boys and I really wanted to go home and spend some time there," Pertile said. "But I was really sad to leave Evan because he had just started losing his hair in chunks."
Sitting next to Pertile on the flight was Brenda Bowen, who works in Classroom Services at the Command and General Staff College. Bowen offered Pertile an ear and a shoulder, and when she found out Evan's affinity for "Army guys," she knew there was something she could do to help.
"She told me about her son and how he loves Soldiers, and I thought 'I bet I can get a few Soldiers to send him messages,'" Bowen said.
After the flight, Bowen contacted Col. Bob Burns, the director of the Center for Army Tactics at CGSC.
"We start getting faculty and the students to send notes to the boy," Burns said.
Evan has a page at caringbridge.org, a Web site for people to connect with loved ones and others during a critical illness.
"There were a significant number of messages that got posted," Burns said. "And then it kind of grows like these things do, and guys in Iraq start sending notes."
Then, Burns called his friend, Combined Arms Center Command Sgt. Maj. Philip Johndrow. Burns was Johndrow's squadron commander in Iraq.
Johndrow, in turn, contacted another friend, Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Frennier from U.S. Army Recruiting Command. Johndrow told Frennier Evan's story and, less than a week after Bowen and Pertile met on the plane, a group of Memphis recruiters were taking Evan out to lunch.
Johndrow said he knew Evan would appreciate the visit from the Soldiers, but the Soldiers would get a lot out of the visit also.
"We go through hardships and we go through tough times and to see some of the things Evan is going through, makes some of the things we go through maybe not look as tough," Johndrow said. "To see him, how strong he is and how motivated he is to do what he does - it warms us and motivates us even more to do what we do."
What Evan began doing next surprised everyone. Pertile said Evan had been receiving messages on his Web page saying he needed to eat to be Army strong and that Army Rangers have to eat to be strong.
"He started eating - he had completely quit eating and he was like 'I gotta eat,'" Pertile said. "It was remarkable, it was just incredible, like this unseen force helping my child - the generosity of others."
In addition to the messages on the Web site, Evan has received his own set of ACUs, a beret and a certificate designating him as an honorary Soldier.
In February, Evan was at home in South Carolina and was able to make a visit to Fort Jackson as a guest of Brig. Gen. Bradley May, the commanding general. Evan was wearing his ACUs with patches provided by Johndrow and Burns. Burns had sent him his own colonel rank.
Evan is now back at St. Jude's in Memphis. He just completed his first of four cycles of chemo. Pertile said they expect to be in Memphis at least until the end of July.
Bowen is planning a trip to see Evan soon. She said she talks to his mother pretty much weekly.
"She believes Soldiers make a big difference in her son's recovery," Bowen said. "She thinks it was full circle, after buying those Soldiers lunch."
Pertile said she welcomes posts to her son's Web site http://caringbridge.org/visit/evanpertile. To register, enter an e-mail address and create a password.
"He keeps telling people he is Army strong," Pertile said. "He tells everybody."
Okay, people, you know what to do...