Delta Flight Attendant Serves Up Journals for American Troops

"Most of the stuff people would write is 'We're proud of you, we're behind you,'" he said, adding that he never once saw a negative comment.

Pacheco, 24, said many troops overseas think Americans back home take "everything for granted." But when people like Schmidt drop into their lives, "that just makes it so much better."

"They all thought she was a young woman and I was having a relationship with her," he said, laughing.

Pacheco and Schmidt met face-to-face for the first time in 2007 on the eve of his wedding. He had invited her as a guest.

"I just want everyone to know how much of a great person she is," Pacheco said. "And that what she does is the quality of a true American."

Schmidt, a Delta flight attendant for 11 years, was inspired to start adopting soldiers in January 2002, when she flew on a charter flight ferrying troops from Atlanta to Frankfurt.

"One of them -- a young guy -- was joking around, 'I need a sugar momma to take care of me on my deployment,'" she said.

That's exactly what Schmidt did, sending the young man care packages and letters on a regular basis. And then she started "adopting" more and more troops.

She adopted men and women she'd never met. She found them online or through people she met during day-to-day activities. She was connected with one of her soldiers on a flight when his cousin was handed one of the journals to write in.

Troops who are "adopted" by Schmidt -- usually three or four at a time -- get letters once a week and care packages at least once a month.

"It's very important for a soldier to get mail, to have their name called at mail call," she said.

The packages are stuffed with basics, such as socks and underwear, to snacks, gifts and magazines. She once sent silly string on a whim only to find out the troops used it to detect trip wires.

"I had no idea at the time it was having other uses," she said.

She's also sent pinatas to help the troops bond with local children, who in turn trust the Americans enough to show them where landmines have been planted. And she takes requests -- once sending boxes of tampons to troops who used them to plug bullet holes out in the field.

Journals Not Meant to Be Political Statement

Spc. Christopher Hanke, 22, deployed for the second time in Afghanistan with the Kansas Army National Guard, is one of Schmidt's current adoptees, having met her through a Facebook fan page for the United States of America.

"I receive post cards every other week and a care package once a month," he wrote in an e-mail from Afghanistan. "I like the care packages that she sends because you don't know what you'll get inside, but you know that it is good, whatever it is. It's like opening presents on Christmas Day back when you were a kid."

Hanke has yet to receive any Delta passenger journals -- Schmidt says she hopes to have his in his hands by Thanksgiving -- but thought the idea was a great one.

"If I do receive one I would certainly read it and if I could, thank anyone that said anything in it for their support," he wrote.

Hanke said anything they get while deployed makes a difference in showing troops that Americans back home are thinking of them.

"So far my favorite thing I've received from Robin is a Corona Straw hat she got in Tijuana, Mexico, and sent to me," he said. "Great gift."

The Newton, Kan., native said he spends much of his time interacting with the Afghan people. He is due to come home next year. His first deployment was in 2006 and 2007.

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