Fifth-grader Justin “Jet” Jeffery and his father, Maj. John F. Jeffery of the U.S. Army, have collaborated in a unique service effort.
Justin, a G.W. Carver Elementary School student, learned of an opportunity to take on a 4-H community service project through his class. He decided to collect soda tabs, also known as "pop tops," to benefit Ronald McDonald House.
He invited his father, who has been deployed to Iraq since last summer, to join him in the effort.
“I don’t really get to do very much with my dad because he’s in Iraq, so I thought that this would be something that we could do together,” Justin said.
The major was enthusiastic about working with his son on the project.
“I thought it was a great thing because it gave me and him the opportunity to continue our relationship although we’re thousands of miles apart,” he said. “And Justin was getting the opportunity to see community service in action and participate in it himself.”
Jeffery had been a collecting soda tabs for Ronald McDonald House before Justin took on his project.
“My nephew, who lives in Montgomery, Ala., is disabled … when my sister takes him to the hospital in Birmingham, she stays all the time at Ronald McDonald House,” he explained.
Jeffery set up collection buckets with the slogan “Have you popped your top today?” at Camp Fallujah and Camp Ramadi in Iraq, where U.S. forces are working with Iraqi police and security forces. He even explained the project to his Iraqi colleagues, who have collected thousands of soda tabs for the effort as well.
“It went from being a project at his elementary school to being a combined effort between the U.S. forces and Iraqi security forces,” said Jeffery.
Knowing that his project is having such a widespread effect is another perk for Justin.
“It’s a little exhilarating,” he said.
This month, when the major came home on leave from his deployment, he brought with him bagsful of soda tabs to present to Justin and his class. The tabs, which Jeffery estimates to number in the hundred-thousands, will be weighed by a local chapter of Ronald McDonald House to determine their value. Proceeds will benefit the organization directly.
For the father and son, the project has been a priceless bonding experience.
“It feels good because a lot of the kids who have parents deployed very seldom get to talk to their parents,” Justin said. “We talk on Skype a lot and he tells me about the bottle tabs and stuff. So just to be able to talk to him and bond, it feels pretty good.”
Jeffery knows the shared effort will continue to have a positive impact on both his and Justin's lives.
“It’s been an opportunity to get him involved in community service, an opportunity for me to demonstrate community service, for us to participate in a community service project together, to represent the Army’s partnership with Iraqi security forces, and of course, the father/son combination.”