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An Unexpected Thank You from Baghdad

By Analiz González
Buckner International

(DALLAS, Texas) — Ray Perkins, 92, isn’t one to get involved in a lot of activities at the Buckner Retirement Village where he lives.

Alicia Russell, executive director, said that other residents told her she would never succeed at getting him involved at all. But when the old military veteran heard about the beginnings of Buckner Hearts in Action three years ago, he decided to commit.

Buckner Hearts in Action is the retirement community’s group of military supporters. Each month they travel to the airport to send off the troops with hugs, treats and words of encouragement before they fly overseas.

“I wish I had the words,” he repeated over and over, “to say what I wish that I could say. I am really glad that I am an American. I served for three years in the military and I still see in my mind, the boys on the ground as far as I can see … who died.”

His eyes filled with tears. “These soldiers need encouragement. I wish I had the words to say all that I want to say.”

Russell said that when her residents send off the troops, they never expect to get anything in return. But she’ll never forget the day she got a package from Baghdad in the mail.

It was a Christmas card, a flag and a military patch, she said, sent by Chris Ryan, a soldier serving our country in Baghdad who had met the team from Buckner Hearts in Action during a send-off. The card read:

“It was great to see you all out there supporting the troops, and we really needed the lift before we get on the plane back there. This flag was flown for you on a VH-60 MEDEVAC mission to Baghdad on the night of Nov. 24, 2008.”

Barney Margason, AGE, a member of Hearts in Action who served in the military for several years, said the soldiers are very appreciative of what they do.

“We wish them safety before they go off because I remember what it was like. I always pray for them and for their safety.”

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