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122nd guardsman, Do it Best help supply Afghan students

July 14, 2018

Tech. Sgt. Daniel Walton of the Indiana Air National Guard recently turned a deployment to the Middle East into an opportunity for his colleagues back home to help thousands of Afghan children whose families cannot afford school supplies.

Workers at Do it Best Corp. didn’t hesitate, fulfilling Walton’s plea for materials : including book bags, notebooks, pencils, pencil sharpeners and erasers : in a matter of weeks.

“It was an easy decision to say, ‘Let’s see what we can do,’” communications director Randy Rusk said, adding it’s a cause anybody can connect to.

The Fort Wayne headquarters : along with warehouses in Illinois, Missouri and Nevada : acted with “a sense of urgency” to ensure delivery before the upcoming school year and the end of Walton’s deployment, Rusk said.

Walton, a digital communications specialist at Do it Best Corp., is expected to return mid-August, Rusk said.

Reached by email, Walton credited friend Staff Sgt. Brent Maddox with the idea. Both men are part of the munitions shop with the 122nd Fighter Wing deployed in Afghanistan. Master Sgt. Alec Cawlfield from their unit also helped.

Many in Afghanistan are farmers who grow food for their families : not food to sell, Walton said. About 4,000 of the nearly 10,000 schoolchildren don’t have access to school supplies.

“There are military units from around the world stationed here along with us who conduct patrols outside the wire,” Walton said. “While they are out, they often stop and talk to the village leaders to build relationships with local Afghans. These leaders have identified their children’s education as their biggest area of concern.”

Seeing children alongside their parents in the fields compelled Maddox to establish a program so donations can be made to local villages.

“I would look at those kids every day on my way to work and couldn’t begin to imagine how difficult their lives were,” Maddox said in a statement provided by Walton. “How, through no fault of their own, they were victims of a bad circumstance.

“Born into poverty in a war-torn area, never knowing peace or comfort. I imagined how their parents must feel, how they must fear for their children’s safety. How at the end of the day they are no different than you or I and they love their children as fiercely as we love our own. ... I want them to know that someone on this base in some way cares about them, their children and their futures.”

Maddox asked Walton whether his employer, which helped supply tools to Walton’s unit during a previous deployment, would be interested in contributing to the school supply effort.

Within about two weeks last month, employees donated enough school supplies to fill 13 boxes.

Members of the Romanian Army will distribute the items while on patrol, Walton said.

“Our unit flies the A-10 aircraft, and our job is [to] protect the good guys from the bad guys,” he said. “We also want to make friends with the good guys over here and help them however we can. The items being donated will help these families send their children to school since supplies are not always easy for them [to] acquire.”

asloboda@jg.net

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