Saturday, August 02, 2008

Girl, 8, organizes parade for Iraq-bound dad

The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Aug 1, 2008 9:44:25 EDT

BLACKMAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Eight-year-old Rylee Dreffs wanted to make sure that her father got a proper send-off before he’s deployed to Iraq.

So she organized a parade in his honor, right in their own neighborhood.

Wednesday night’s procession for Army Master Sgt. Shawn Dreffs went off without a hitch.

A dozen children paraded around the street on foot, bicycle, scooter and Big Wheel. About 50 neighbors, friends and relatives lined the street as Rylee, who stood tallest among the group of children trailing behind the American flag she carried, led the parade.

The Pledge of Allegiance began the 15-minute event and an abridged rendition of “America the Beautiful” ended it before an emotional Dreffs gave his daughter and his 5-year-old son, Connor, a pair of bear-sized hugs.

“I’m just flattered that she did it,” Dreffs, 38, told The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

After 19 years in the Army and National Guard, Dreffs will be eligible to retire from the military when his 400-day tour is completed. He works for Consumers Energy as an information technology analyst.

Rylee had heard last week that a big send-off was planned for a Jackson-based military unit being deployed to Iraq. While her father also was set to leave soon for the war, he belonged to another unit and wouldn’t be a part of that event.

“My mom said that my dad wasn’t in that parade,” Rylee said. “So I thought it would be nice that he could have his own parade.”

So the third-grader decided to plan one to take place on the family’s street in Jackson County’s Blackman Township. Bicycles were decorated, invitations were distributed, neighborhood children practiced singing patriotic tunes and flags were made available — all within a week.

The planning and practicing was done in secret. Dreffs didn’t know about his parade until about an hour before it started.

“We made this up, and we called our dad and he came outside and he’s been happy,” Connor said afterward.

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