07/11/11 — Girl Scout cookie sendoff

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Girl Scout cookie sendoff

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 11, 2011 1:46 PM

A stack of boxes under each arm, Ariana Anderson approached a few of the men who had, moments earlier, gathered in an auditorium on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Saturday afternoon.

"Here you go," the 6-year-old said, smiling as she made her offering.

"They're cookies."

The airmen smiled.

"Well, thank you," one of them said, kneeling down to look into the eyes of the little girl less than half his size. "I really appreciate it."

"You're welcome," Ariana replied. "Do you want some more? They're really good."

They came to say thank you -- the dozens of Girl Scouts who gave up a summer Saturday to meet some of the locally stationed men and women set to begin stints in Afghanistan in the coming weeks -- hundreds of members of the 916th Air Refueling Wing are gearing up for six-month tours that, for some, will begin as early as this week.

But you could sense, as conversations unfolded between the two groups, that neither the airmen or the children fully understood the impact of the moments they shared over those "Thanks-a-Lots" and "Peanut Butter Patties."

For 7-year-old Madalyn Craig, it was more about posing for photographs with her newest role models.

And for Margaret Gregory, it was simply another opportunity to give away as many boxes as she could.

"Who wants cookies? Who wants cookies?" she said, looking for the few airmen who had only gotten one box. "It never hurts to have some more."

And then there were the airmen, who used the experience to explain how each stripe on their uniform represented an achievement -- a concept akin to the patches each girl wore on her vest.

Or to tell the girls how they, too, use to be Boy and Girl Scouts -- how much fun they remember having with their friends before they grew up and answered their nation's call.

Senior Master Sgt. Ralph France characterized the event as "good stuff."

And Senior Airman Kevia Braxton said the girls she sat and talked to for nearly 30 minutes were "so sweet."

But REDHORSE Flight Commander Lt. Col. Jayne Jackson said she doesn't think her airmen really understand just how much the scouts' visit really meant.

"They don't realize ... the affect they have on the public -- especially the youth of America," she said. "But later in their career, they'll look back on today and understand how significant it really was."