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Army Dad Wrote 270 Notes to Put in His Daughter's Lunchbox for Each Day of His Deployment

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So many times, it’s the little things in life that make us feel truly loved and appreciated. Those small acts of kindness add up in a big way, and that was certainly true for one family from Fort Drum, New York.

Staff Sergeant Philip Gray was leaving to Afghanistan in October 2019 — but not before taking care of some important business first.

He would be leaving his wife and 7-year-old daughter for a planned total of 270 days, so at his wife’s suggestion, he decided to leave behind daily reminders of his love for his little girl, Rosie.

His gift? 270 hand-written notes on index cards, one for each day he’d be gone, to be given to Rosie one at a time in her lunchbox.

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“He wrote anything from, ‘You are super girl’ to ‘Smiling makes everyone else smile,'” mom Kristen Gray told Good Morning America.

“He was very big on feel-good words for her and girl power. He made sure to tell her how smart she was, and run fast in P.E. and things that would really make her happy.”

“I love you so much,” “Be a mermaid,” “We are a family of awesome,” “Have fun at Tae Kwon Do!” and “When you get home, have a dance party with mommy,” were just a few of the many notes Rosie got.

Many of them also featured illustrations as well, and Philip said it took him about a week of writing 30-40 a day to finish the stash.

Leaving those little reminders was especially important because with his line of work he missed a lot of the big holidays.

“We miss, you know, Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s,” he said during an interview on the Kelly Clarkson Show. “I just made it back three days before her birthday this year, so that was a big plus.”

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His wife said that leaving little notes isn’t uncharacteristic of him. He often leaves little notes for her to find, especially when he knows he’ll be gone for a while.

“Actually, before we were even married he would leave some little notes for me whether it was — just like in the kitchen or next to the bed, but especially after we had Rosie and he would go away for training, whether it was like days, weeks, months, it always came at just the right time,” Kristen said.

“We’d find something just to make us smile. He would just always think of these little things to write, and just leave a happy note.”

When asked which were her favorites, Rosie showed notes that said “Always smile. It makes everyone else smile,” “Have a great day bug” and “Love you.”

Does this sound like something a loved one you know would appreciate? It only takes a few moments, and in this age of technology, it’s a sweet, concrete way to remind someone you care.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking