SHELBYVILLE — Ashley Sand is well known for her work collecting cards and care packages for soldiers and veterans, according to a story I wrote for the Times-Gazette. She does it in memory of her late boyfriend, Pfc. Tommy Curd.
What some may not realize is she has inspired a young relative to get involved. Sand’s nephew, Joey Hobbs, 11, has joined the mission and is traveling to military bases to share his love with the troops.
Their ongoing project, Love for a Soldier, collects items for homeless soldiers at Operation Stand Down in Nashville. Operation Stand Down offers honorably discharged veterans financial assistance, legal assistance, and in some cases transitional housing, and help finding jobs, but they also offer them a warm meal, or blankets, or immediate needs.
Joey helped pack more than 80 boxes last Christmas and has been supporting troops with care packages. He was surprised to receive something himself — a flag that troops flew aboard an F-16, Black 40 Viper.
The flag’s certificate reads: “This flag represents America and the American Forces who have faithfully served in Afghanistan since October 2001. Our present mission is to establish train, advise and assist a sustained Afghan Security Force. This Flag bears witness to our continuing efforts to destroy terrorist forces to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to stage attacks against our Homeland. This flag was flown over the Skies of Afghanistan on a combat sortie aboard an F-16, Black 40 Viper, assigned the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Operation Freedom Sentinel. Presented to Joey Hobbs. Flown by: Major David “Trigger” Zeytoonjian, Aircraft #: 88-0466. Fuujins Rock!” (Fighting Fuujins is the squadron’s nickname).
“He couldn’t understand why they would do something so extraordinary for him when they were the ones who were heroes,” Sand said of her nephew.