“The Gratitude Campaign”

Did anyone see this photo in the news recently?

not let go

NBC News in Philadelphia reports:

“A family photo that shows a little girl beside her father and his fellow soldiers in uniform as they prepare to go to war has resonated well beyond the tight knit Bennethum clan.

Four-year-old Paige Bennethum really, really didn’t want her daddy to go to Iraq.

So much so, that when Army Reservist Staff Sgt. Brett Bennethum lined up in formation at his deployment this July, she couldn’t let go.

No one had the heart to pull her away.

The commanding officer allowed Paige to say goodbye as her dad prepared to ship off from Fort Dix.

Paige’s mom Abby captured the moment with her camera and her aunt passed the image along to a Berks County, Pa. newspaper.

“I’ve had strangers looking me up online, sending me messages that they are touched by it … offering a lot of support,” Abby Bennethum told NBCPhiladelphia.

The picture took on a life of its own online this week. Abby says that suddenly, people were knocking on her door. “Literally overnight, there’s all these people that just want to do anything they can,” she says. Though she says her husband hasn’t seen any stories about his family yet, he expects to.

For her part, Paige still remembers how she felt that day in July. Looking at the picture of herself – her dad now overseas – Paige remembers, “I didn’t want to let go of him.”

Ok, that photo kind of undid me.

See, I come from a long line of pacifists. My dad was a conscientious objector in the second World War II, which was… not a popular position. It took a lot of courage to take that stand during that time in our nation’s history. Daddy’s love for this country and his patriotism were unquestioned, but he sought the CO classification because his religious beliefs would simply not allow him to kill another human being. He was assigned ‘alternative service’  (defined as “civilian work in the national interest”) on a relative’s farm during the war, which was a huge relief to my mom because he could have been sent to a CO camp which would have separated him from his family. During the Vietnam War my oldest brother Matthew was classified as a conscientious objector as well, and he did his alternative service in the VISTA program, which is kind of like the Peace Corps but in the United States. When my other brother Joel went in for his required physical exam, his spinal x-rays indicated that apparently he had undiagnosed polio as a child which exempted him from the draft. Russ’ father was stationed overseas during WWII, and he had two brothers who served in Vietnam. His brothers were forever changed by their combat experience, mentally and physically. They both had bouts of PTSD and suffered lifelong health problems from being exposed to Agent Orange.

All of that to say, I’m not a big fan of war.

But regardless of your politics, regardless of how you feel about what is currently going on in Iraq and Afghanistan and regardless of what you think this administration should (or shouldn’t) do about it, I think all of us can agree on the fact that the young men and women in the military deserve our respect and our support. So when I found THIS online the other day, I thought it was such a cool idea that I wanted to pass it on to you.

Watch it, and then tell me what you think.

46 Responses

  1. rockin robyn

    That is truly an awesome pic! And thanks for showing us that video clip… I’m such a wuss – everytime I see a service man or women, merely the sight of them starts me tearing up. I’m remembering being out at a mall about two years after 9-11 and some very young looking “army” guys were in my path… as I ended up closer to them I just spoke out a “hi – thanks for doing what you do” directed to them. They all looked at me and gave me a pleasant acknowledgement grin. Well, I barely got past them and the tears rolled down my face. That was just so hard for me. I got to tell you I haven’t done it since. That gesture “thing” will be perhaps easier than saying it out loud – man, why is that!!!

    In my family there has been alot of service men… My dad was a marine, my brother in the army, my uncle served in Korea and many members of my family (before I was born) served their country in the armed forces. My take on it is everyones life has a purpose. If God placed it on your heart to want to serve than that is what and who you are. Not everyone is cut out for that. I look back at my brother’s pics when he was in the army and he looks like a “boy”. So young. I hated when he’d come home on leave and than had to go back. That was so hard on the family. Emotionally it’s hard and he didn’t even serve in war times. Today “so far” there isn’t a draft so all those who are serving are there because they made a decision to serve this great country of ours and that just makes them more of a hero. Because what would this country be without them.

    I love the idea of the gratitude gesture to honor current soldiers but also remember to thank a vet. I was so honored to be in the same room with, when a few years back, the company I work for held an event and invited two of the members of the “company of heroes” – Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron. Two very very special men.

  2. delightedabroad

    wow, that totally stirred me up – but I’ll comment on it later. Don’t have much time now.

  3. bettyrwoodward

    Thanks for sharing the picture and the video and also about your family. I know I’m the other side of the pond but my father was a conscientious objector during WW2. He also got to work on a farm not too far from home.

  4. MostlySunny

    A picture speaks a thousand words! Very powerful.

    I’m a crazed Mom when it comes to the military – especially at airports. I talk to all of them – it’s like they’re my own kids and I’m the last one that’s going to “send them off”.

    I was in Hawaii a few years ago for work and was waiting for my car at the hotel valet stand. A man in uniform was standing next to me and we started talking – he’s stationed in South Korea, been in the army for over 20 years. When my car came, as always, I thanked him for what he does for the rest of us. These tears welled up in his eyes, he touched his heart and said “It is my honor and pleasure to serve.” I got in my car and immediately pulled into a parking stall because I couldn’t contain my emotions. What a guy! What would we do without people like him? Be speaking German or Japanese, I guess.

    My Dad enlisted in the Navy five days after Pearl Harbor, went to boot camp for 28 days, then on to the Pacific – for 5 years. The stories he is now telling us. None of us likes war, even our service personnel. One of his really neat stories, though…in the summer of 2005 we saw a movie called “The Great Raid” – about one of the greatest raids to free U.S. prisoners from a Japanese camp. My Mom died in August 2005, so while we were at their house after the funeral, I was telling my Dad about this movie. He stopped me in mid-sentence and said “We brought those boys home!” He proceeded to tell us that his ship, the U.S.S. Louisville, was on it’s way home to San Francisco when they got called to turn around and go back. They were to pick up a huge group of freed POW’s and bring them home. As they were bringing these guys on board – some having to be carried – one man on my Dad’s crew – Barnes – saw his brother coming aboard. He had gotten word that his brother was MIA and feard dead a few earlier. The brother had been captured and marched in the Bataan death march to this prison camp. So here he is – coming on board his brother’s ship – alive! My Dad said there wasn’t a dry eye on board! It was pretty emotional. The captain came over the loud speaker and asked if anyone would be willing to give up his bunk for one of these guys — everyone did (except the Barnes brother – they made them stay together to catch up!). My Dad said he and his crew slept on deck all the way to San Franisco. At the end of “The Great Raid”, they show actual photos and news footage of these guys coming in to San Franciso. I had to watch that movie again, realizing it was my Dad’s ship!

    I have an uncle I never knew buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery in Margraten in The Netherlands. Shot down in a B-17 over Germany, July 31, 1943. He was 21 years old. He was stationed in Ridgewell, England.

    So I’m a mess when it comes to the military and photos like this. I know the stories of those who come home and the pain of those whose loved ones don’t.

    Thanks for the reminder…

    rockin robyn – Aren’t those two guys from the “Band of Brother”?


    Sniff, sniff, ……..no words, yet……….

  6. jonny

    I am constantly reminded of what a humbling honor it is being a ‘reader’ here at Baby Bloomr. Thanks everyone for sharing!


    Still sniffling,….but soooo looking for someone to do that sign of gratitude to!
    Tori – you are just so neat! Thanks, again, for making us laugh, cry, and think, and feel! Thanks for helping us all keep it in perspective!

  8. delightedabroad

    Is that sign of gratitude internationally known ? For me it’s new but that does not necessarily mean anything…
    Actually I had to pause when reading because of tears; I would dare to say that this is not likely to be seen in my place. In Germany uniforms and patriotism are still stigmatized somehow. At least that’s my point of view.

  9. delightedabroad

    Oh, I mean that’s what I hear/realize whenever someone talks about those issues.

  10. rockin robyn

    **MostlySunny – you are correct and weren’t they so properly honored (made famous) in that book and the HBO movie “Band of Brothers”

  11. MostlySunny

    rockin robyn – YES! And I hold my breath and cry every time it comes to the part when they get to the concentration camp. It gets me every time. And the interviews with the “real” guys. So well done, so touching, so powerful.

  12. LindaB

    Loved the stories——-and yours, Sunny, made my eyes water!

    That picture of the little girl holding on to her dad is very moving indeed. Those who have never made that sacrifice of leaving home and family to fight and perhaps die abroad for something bigger than themselves will never fully understand it, but this little girls tears reveals a small fraction of the cost to those who do. And I love the commanding officer who allowed the little girl to stay with her dad until the last possible minute before he shipped out.

    And I love this country! A country (and it’s allies) where there are men and women who will make that sacrifice so another little girl on the other side of the world can have some basic freedoms and rights that she could only dream of before! So that she can go to school, even though she is a girl, and have a future! So that she won’t have to fear an evil dictator’s henchmen pulling up to her home in the night and family members disappearing, never to be heard from again! Nor fear that her brothers may be enlisted to strap bombs on their person and blow themselves up, killing innocent civilians to make a political point! Nor fear that when she grows up, she will have no rights at all, and be at the mercy of her husband, be he cruel or kind. If we and our allies accomplish our mission of establishing genuine democracies and advocating basic human rights in Iraq and Afghanistan, (aside from other military goals), that little girl will have hope and the opportunity of a better life……like the little American girl in the picture above!

    There is something special, something incredibly honorable about our young military personel to voluntarily sacrifice so much for people so far away and so helpless. AND HOW INCREDIBLY BRAVE THEY ARE! I don’t have any trouble walking up to them and thanking them for their service and their sacrifice, or making the sign we learned about in the video. It’s the least I can do.

    No sane person likes war. But the reality is there are evil and violent men in this world who seek to destroy us and innocents in their own countries, and they must be stopped. Thank God there are brave and valiant men and women who go and put themselves in harm’s way to protect us and others they have never met. God bless ‘em!

    Thanks, Tori, for bringing that picture and video to our attention. This blog is so edifying!

  13. tammy961

    First of all, I live in Pensacola,FL–HOME OF NAVAL AVIATION. The Blue Angels live here. We have 3 military bases in Pensacola and many more within 150 miles of us. Also many many reserve units here that have been activated. It is just part of who we, here in Pensacola, are. We LOVE our military people. As a teacher at the school that serviced NAS Pensacola, I learned that these men and women are severely UNDER compensated for what they do. My own son tried so hard to enlist in the Air Force yet they chose not to take him. He was heartbroken but God had other plans. He is now in the Lord’s Army doing what he can to help save souls for the Kingdom. The video has me bawling like a school girl. I guess it is because Pensacola is home to several “schools” that the young enlistments come to immediately after boot camp. These boys and girls are mere babies. The older my own son gets, the younger the new recruits are. Sweet little boys and girls who have chosen to do whatever they have to for the country who at often times looks down on them and ridicules them for the war. For many of them, this is their first time away from home. They did not start the war but someone must serve. We do alot in our community to honor our men and women of the military and I am so proud of that. We have them in our homes when they can’t get home for holidays. We adopt them as family members so they will not be alone. My church serves the single sailors/soldiers a home cooked lunch on Sunday after morning church.Pensacola LOVES its’ military families and will always support them. Thanks for the pic and the video.

  14. MostlySunny

    delightedabroad – I think that gesture is American sign language for “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” “Thank you” in sign is – hand to your lips, then outstretched. Here it is from your heart.

  15. LindaB

    Tammy, you brought up a very important point—–our military families are so underpaid, we should all be ashamed! We send billions of dollars overseas to help other countries, but we can’t compensate those young folks who sacrifice everything to keep us all safe and to stop tyranny around the world. What’s up with that?

    And you should be proud of your community in Pensacola for their support of our “kids” serving on military bases there!!! I am!!!


    LindaB – I love you! You know just how to say stuff! I wish I could just hug you right now! How far are you from Rocky Mount?

  17. LindaB

    I’ve been known to travel great distances for a hug, Delivered!!!! Let me get out my Garmin! LOL

  18. Phyllis R

    My goodness…I wasn’t prepared for the wash of emotions that went over me. Like so many others of us posting here…I am still sniffling.

  19. delightedabroad

    Thank you MostlySunny !

    Just a little incidental remark: the Gaither concert was simply overwhelming ! (yesterday evening) The atmosohere was great, as mesured by German standards. There’s such an immens difference between hearing them all recorded and live !

  20. delightedabroad

    Btw there was only a tiny downer – I had a bad migraine.
    Oh, and I’m rather convinced that I could’ve interpreted Bill at least just as well !

  21. rachelbaker

    Hi all – I worte a long response to this post a few days ago and it disappeared into thin air and haven’t got round to trying again. Suffice to say that the armed forces and their families deserve our respect and gratitude no matter what we think of war.

    Delighted I’m sure you would have made a great interpreter – apply for the job next time! We have to wait 2 more weeks until the European tour makes it to London. I Can’t wait. The only thing that would make it more exciting would be if Tori and Russ were coming with them!

  22. delightedabroad

    Totally agree with you, rachelbaker !!!

  23. LindaB

    Delighted, I saw the Gaither schedule and that they were gong to be in Germany, but I didn’t put it together that you could be there! I’m glad you went and had such a good time! Who was there? Which artist did you enjoy the most?

    There IS a big difference in seeing a video and hearing a concert in person! AND, you have a chance to actually meet them and shake hands! Or hug, whichever you prefer! Did you get to meet any of the artists?

    I agree with Rachel—–next time, Delighted, I hope you offer your services as an interpreter! I’m sure you would be great!

    Jonny, are you going to be able to attend a Homecoming concert near you during their European tour? I think you would like it!

  24. delightedabroad

    LindaB, there were Signature Sound, GVB, Lynda Randle, Janet Pascal, Gordon Mote, Buddy Greene, Kevin Williams AND Gloria Gaither. But I really can’t tell you whom I prefer. They’re all brilliant ! Well, my first thought when they came on stage was ‘I thought they were taller’…
    Uhh, the day before I in fact thought about saying ‘hello’ to Gloria (and thus overcome my inhibitions) – but as I got a severe migraine that very day I didn’t want to any more. Fortunately I could take my ‘anti-migraine medicin’ a second time this day although I needed a good deal more time after the pause before I could re-enter the hall.

  25. jonny

    I don’t believe they ever come to Finland. And if they did, I couldn’t afford a ticket. Also, it doesn’t look like Candy or Tanya is on the tour, so what’s the point = / Actually, I’ve been thinking about seeing about getting Russ over here the next time he’s in Europe, but there’s a lot of bridges to cross, hills to climb before that could happen.

    And thanks delighted for the up-date, feed-back on the show you saw!! Much appreciated!

  26. GRITSinNC

    Drat it! I finally got back in (what does Word Press keep doing with passwords?) and wrote a long dissertation on WWII, and lost it. Guess it’s a sign I had said too much. I may try to reconstruct it tomorrow…or maybe not. But in the meantime, I’ll leave you with this. Those of you on Twitter probably have seen it, but I think it’s worth seeing by all. It’s by Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys. http://www.josephsbonsall.com/pages/gijoe2009.html .

    Delighted, I’m glad you got to a concert but so sorry about the migraine because I know you couldn’t appreciate it fully in that condition. The reports on Twitter from the Gaither gang (I think it was Ernie who gave the report) said the Germans were enjoying like it was a rock concert. :o) You said you thought they’d be taller. Michael English for one is 6’4″. How tall were you expecting? LOL Did you get any pictures?

  27. rockin robyn

    Hey “Delighted” you didn’t get to see Mark Lowry though (even though he’s back with the Vocal Group…) that’s ’cause’ he was here in Pennsylvania wrapping up some of his still remaining solo dates… In the eight or so years he has been doing his solo tour, I never got to see him… but I was sure glad I did tonight. Just the entertainment I needed of late… He always says Gloria has a masterful mind – well I know she does but so does Mark… things come out of that mind that really make you understand his knowledge of God and his strong faith – even through the jokes… you almost don’t laugh because you just shake your head and feel where that thought came from… what a heart he has!

  28. delightedabroad

    GRITSinNC, perhaps I have a different definition of ‘tall’ because my husband is about as tall as Michael. So that’s ‘normal’ for me I guess. If calculated correctly I’m 5’6″ tall so I would say I’m not grown small as well.
    rockin robyn, we DID see Mark – they imported a bit of the GVB Reunion DVD and showed it on the big screen :-)
    And yes, I also have some difficulties with password/login/sayit !

  29. delightedabroad

    Tried to verify: I’m between 5’6″ and 5’7″ !

  30. GRITSinNC

    Delighted, I’ve always been on the tall side too. Was 5’7-1/2″ most of my life. Kinda hard in school when I was taller than most of the boys, but became an advantage later in life. Now with age, I’ve shrunk down to 5’6″, which makes it more difficult to reach things :( but I’m still taller than most other women I’m around.

    rockin robyn, I’m so glad you got to see Mark. I’ve never seen him solo and would so love to. From what I see on the net, on video, and read, he is definitely totally Spirit filled, and has done so much to help other GVB members. Who but Mark would have the mind to think of words like “Mary, Did You Know”. Love him!

  31. LindaB


    I’ve also heard him say many times that Gloria has a “masterful mind”………….and I’ve thought, well, it takes one to know one!

    He also has a fabulous voice.

  32. rockin robyn

    GRITSinNC and LindaB – I’ve been listening to “Home Where I Belong” a lot lately and really hearing the words… When Mark sings that song you just can’t fake the passion and love and desire in looking forward to going there – that you hear in Mark’s voice… When he sings that song it gives you peace and definitely reminds us that death isn’t final. Fabulous voice indeed!


    DONT EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THE PASSWORD THANG! Ive been feeling so smug that i have been getting in each time on the first try!
    And, I have always thought Mark Lowery was the funniest thing! I have even asked Tori if he was as funny in person as he is on the stage – she never answered me. it probably got lost in all of the other questions i ask!

  34. LindaB

    Hey Guys! We’ve only managed to post 33 “Say it!”s! That’s pathetic! We need to all say a couple more things to get to a respectable number!!! Come on!

  35. delightedabroad

    You’re right LindaB, but I first have to help get Flitzi’s cage cleaned…coming back later !

  36. delightedabroad

    Now then… surprisingly I have to deal with some kind of war/soldiers/society issue in my French classes: I am to do a presentation about war children and their life after war. That’s hard stuff too. And I’m not yet very deep into it ! Does anyone of you know some more interesting facts ?

  37. jonny

    Well former, you get what you ask for. At least one more Say it! on this thread from me.

    I YouTubed Mark Lowry. You’re probably not going to like this, but, honestly, he reminded me of Gomer Pyle. Sorry. Both do have beautiful singing voices, though…

  38. jonny

    LOL!! OK, after this Say it! was posted, I could not help but laugh at the Google add that appeared under it! What sort of add would one get where military men AND Gomer Pyle are both mentioned in the same thread??? “Meet Gay Military Men,” that’s what!!!!!

  39. jonny

    Or was it because I put both Mark and Gomer in the same paragraph!?!

  40. GRITSinNC

    I stay behind and never got to finish what I wanted to say on this subject or the decorating one.

    I enjoyed seeing the homes & decorations of those who shared…especially Tanya’s entry table. I took a few pics of my little dump but never got them posted.

    Since this one seems to have ended on the subject of Mark, I must kindly take exception to jonny’s comparison of Mark to Gomer Pyle and agree with his prediction that we wouldn’t like it.

    To get back on subject a little, did anyone read & watch the piece by Joe Bonsall I posted? I guess having been a child growing up during those years with several relatives who served and losing an uncle in the Pacific made it more meaningful to me.

  41. tori

    GRITS– I just LOVE Joe Bonsall! He and I Twitter back and forth a lot, and he is such a dear man. His book about his parents is just wonderful.

  42. jonny

    Yes!! I recently got around to watching it! Thanks so much for posting the link, GRITS!!!

  43. jonny

    OK, GRITS, ‘reminded’ was propabaly not the best word to use. But, the Mark/Gomer connection was the first thing that did come to mind after the Mark Lowry YouTube moment, experience. Both have a rather high speaking voice with a funny accent, funny to me anyway, and then both bust out with these gorgeous singing voices!! They also have this open mouthed smile thing going on, and have dominate chins. But, they do not look, act the same, and they do have different accents. Also, I have yet to hear Mark belt out a healthy ‘SHA-ZAAM’!! Oh, and one of my Grandmothers would often tell me how she thought Jim Neighbors had THE best singing voice in town!! So, all the ladies letting the world know what a fab singing voice Mark has through their Say it!s probably primed me for the connection!!


  44. GRITSinNC

    Tori, I didn’t know much about Joe Bonsall until I started following him on Twitter. All I knew was that he sang with the Oak Ridge Boys, whom I HAVE had the pleasure of attending a concert…long time ago. I didn’t know he was so deep, and the fact that he loves cats makes me like him even more. Yes, I’m a dog AND cat person…love them both. (When do we get an updated video of Pip BTW, to see if he’s forgiven you?) Back to the Oak Ridge Boys, I also didn’t know that Golden was an artist, and that the group is (are?) good friends of the Bush 41s, and they have some of Golden’s paintings in their home. See what all you learn on Twitter?

    jonny, no problem with the Gomer/Mark comparison. I don’t agree but I don’t hold it against you. You just haven’t had a chance to see enough of Mark to see how deeply spiritual he is along with that comedy and underated voice. Definite peace here.

    Hope you’re feeling well and staying warm.

  45. jonny

    Yes, adittedly the comparison is superficial, but it was the first thing that came to mind = /

  46. Leisa Hammett

    Thank YOU, Tori. I always love reading about your authentic, fleshed out faith. And, I see here it goes back a ways. Has roots. Wow. That’s cool about your family. And,thanks, too for sharing this video. I’m putting it up on MLM and attributing you for the post, of course. We missed you yesterday. We’re organizing a fb page and quarterly gatherings for us women bloggers in town. Also read your photo post. Namaste & hugs,

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