Lifestyle

SK man gets birthday greetings from troops

Pvt. Brandy Swackhammer signs a 3rd Infantry Division flag for Port Orchard resident Jason Overfield - Courtesy of the U.S. Army
Pvt. Brandy Swackhammer signs a 3rd Infantry Division flag for Port Orchard resident Jason Overfield
— image credit: Courtesy of the U.S. Army

After sending out hundreds of birthday greetings over the past few months, Port Orchard resident Jason Overfield got one special package back for his birthday last weekend.

Overfield, who turned 24 on Sunday, received a box full of warm wishes from a U.S. Army brigade combat team serving in Iraq to mark his birthday. The idea for the package came from Staff Sergeant Kristy Smith, who has been corresponding with Overfield and his mother, Judith, for months.

“Jason tells me things that are going on in his video games and the stuff he does to help his mom out — everything they are e-mailing to me is just like I am family,” said Smith, quoted in an Army press release.

Overfield was introduced to Smith via the AdoptaPlatoon program, a nonprofit organization that matches deployed U.S. soldiers with community members who send them letters, cards and care packages. Judith said Jason volunteered to send birthday greetings, and every month gets a list of 100 to 200 people overseas to wish a happy birthday.

“He just loves it,” said Judith, explaining that her son always wanted to join the military, but his autism and other disadvantages kept him from qualifying to serve.

After Jason sent Smith an e-mail for her birthday, the pair began a friendship and now he e-mails Smith nearly every day, sending her jokes and keeping her updated on his life with his mom. Judith also e-mails Smith regularly.

“Kristy and I just have a lot of fun,” she said, explaining that the two women bonded quickly over their love of cats, and Judith sends Smith funny stories and other tidbits. “It’s just the neatest friendship — we’ve corresponded with a lot of people, but I’ve never bonded with anyone like I have with her.”

Last month, knowing Jason’s birthday was coming up, Smith decided to do something special in return for his thoughtful gestures.

First, Smith had dozens of officers sign a large 3rd Infantry Division flag with personal messages for Jason.

Next, she recorded a video of all the soldiers raising a U.S. flag in honor of him while wishing him a happy birthday.

Smith then put the signed infantry flag and the U.S. flag from the video in a box to Jason, along with a map of Iraq, a limited edition Disney watch and an Army patch and stickers.

Judith knew for weeks the package was coming, but said her son did not know until it came last Friday, two days before his June 1 birthday.

“It was absolutely awesome — I think the smile went clear around his face,” she said, explaining that she especially enjoyed watching the video, “because we got to see the face of our pen pal.”

Judith said she plans to keep corresponding with Smith when she returns to her family in Georgia.

“It’s always great to know another cat person,” she said.

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