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Act of kindness strengthens ties between ROK, U.S.

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael O'Connor
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Once a Mustang, always a Mustang!

A former Airman and his family, members of the Mustang Stampede from 1998 to 2000, recently performed what some would describe as a random act of kindness, but their actions weren't random. What this family did was very deliberate and done with great purpose -- providing winter gloves, hats, mittens, scarves and slippers to a group of children and adults at the Ephphatha (ef-fa-tha) Orphanage for the Deaf in Pyongtaek.

Lt. Col. (retired) Clete Knaub, formerly a member of the 51st Maintenance Squadron, his wife Sharon and son Jake, started a project called "Pennies for Jesus" at their local congregation in Laurel, Mont. After nearly two years, the project raised 26,000 pennies filling 520 rolls, which weigh 146.25 pounds, or the equivalent of two $100s, one $50 and one $10 bill in Federal Reserve Notes.

"Approximately 30 4-to-17-year-olds took part in the project," said Mr. Knaub. "The kids would bring in the spare pennies accumulating in their homes and put them into one of four one gallon glass pickle jars located in central locations of the church. We also had a 12-inch-high toy lighthouse that was placed in the Sunday school classroom Jake attended. When the children had a birthday, they would come forward at the beginning of Sunday school class and put one penny into the lighthouse for every year of their age."

Mr. Knaub said the idea for this project came to life during a Sunday school staff meeting that he and his wife attended. When all the jars were filled, they decided it was time to do something with them. So he brought up the idea of using the money to buy warm clothes for the kids at the orphanage in Korea he and his family used to visit during their assignment here.

"The Sunday school kids loved the idea of doing this and felt it was something Jesus would approve of with the 'Pennies for Jesus' project," said Mr. Knaub. "As you know, here in the U.S. kids just don't ask for warm clothes for Christmas presents, they ask for toys. When Sharon, Jake and I told the Sunday school kids how the kids at the orphanage wanted warm clothes, it made them realize how blessed we are in the United States and that it was important for them to share what they have with those who may have less. So this project was a good life and biblical lesson for our Sunday school kids."

The Knaub family said while they were stationed in Korea, the unit used to sponsor a Christmas party, do an angel tree for the kids, and bring them warm clothes. They said they'd never forget how the kids would get so excited to see them and receive the clothes.

"We really would like to do this again in the future, and some church members have already come forward to get involved," said Mr. Knaub.

For more than five decades the Republic of Korea and United States have been staunch allies, and within that firm framework, personal friendships between Koreans and Americans have developed over and over again. Stories abound about friendships kindled by a one- or two-year tour, which in turn evolved into a lifelong friendship of letters, e-mails, phone calls and decades of mutual visits.

The Knaub family is a prime example of the kind of impact American military servicemembers and their families can have when they give back to their communities at home and abroad. Selfless acts of kindness like this, no matter how small or big, go a long way in strengthening the relationship between Americans and Koreans in the Republic of Korea.

At Osan Air Base, there are numerous off-base volunteer opportunities for all of Team Osan. Airmen, Soldiers and civilians alike are already spending hundreds of hours a month of their off-duty time enriching and improving the lives of Koreans. There are about half a dozen English conversation and instruction-type classes going on in neighboring churches, elementary schools, high schools and universities, as well as with ROK Air Force Airmen. Several other groups visit neighboring orphanages and a home for the impoverished elderly; pick-up trash on hiking trails; others make a four-hour round-trip journey to help build a church on the top of a mountain.

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, once said, "Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed."

Anyone interested in "Paying It Forward" through community service both on and off base should contact the Airmen and Family Readiness Center volunteer coordinator at 784-5440.