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To Faith, with love from Afghanistan

Faith Aisthorpe (click for larger version)
April 24, 2013 - By Dan Shriner

Review Editor

The love sent to soldiers in Afghanistan from an eight-year-old Lake Orion girl has come back to her in a very special way.

Last week, Faith Aisthorpe received a package from soldiers at the U.S. Army Front Operating Base (FOB) Salerno in Afghanistan.

Inside that package was an American flag and a proclamation signed by the commanding colonel of the base telling Faith about the flag which flew over the base on the front lines during Operation Enduring Freedom in February.

The soldiers there wanted to honor and thank Faith, who suffers from cystic fibrosis and fights every day to stay healthy. Faith is a student at Webber Elementary School.

Chief Warrant Officer II, Brian Boase, a Lake Orion native who is serving at FOB Salerno, has befriended Faith in recent weeks. The flag flew in her honor on February 27 over the base, which is in the Eastern province of Khowst, near the town of Khost.

Members of the battalion plan to "Walk with Faith" on May 18 in Afghanistan, while others here will walk for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at Rochester Municipal Park to raise money for "Team Faith."

"It was such an amazing gift that they sent," said Faith's mother, Susan. "She was so excited to receive a gift from Brian."

But the story about how Faith has become an inspiration for the soldiers began with her love, charity and strength.

According to Susan, Faith was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 18-months and has been in and out of Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor dozens of times.

In a phone conversation with Boase this week from Afghanistan, he told The Lake Orion Review how they came to know Faith, which was in an unusual way.

Members of Sister Souls and their Orion Loves project sent Christmas packages to the base recently. In the packages were blankets with different sports teams names and home-made holiday cards. Boase said there was also a Santa Claus outfit which he wore and entertained the troops. There were about 27 blankets and cards for the men in his unit.

"It all really helped us. It was just great to receive all those things from Sister Souls," he said.

Boase said the gifts and cards helped since he and the troops were away from their families. Boase's wife, Kristy (McDowell) Boase, is also from Lake Orion. The couple have three children collectively and met when Boase was a recruiter and signed his future wife into the military.

A few weeks after the gifts and cards, Boase said, he was looking at the Sister Souls Facebook page where he saw a link to Faith's Facebook site, called "Fans for Faith."

Boase said as he was looking at Faith's Facebook page he suddenly realized that she was the little girl who sent so many cards to the troops. He saw the pictures of Faith in the hospital with the cards and recognized them as the ones they received.

"At first, I didn't know what she was going through having cystic fibrosis. Here is a little girl hospitalized, fighting for her life and she is making Christmas cards for us. None of us even knew her but we realized she was the person who made them."

The hulking Boase said he cried and cried as did other battle-hardened soldiers when they realized how she suffered but put it all aside for them.

Susan Aisthorpe said Faith made many of the cards while she was in the hospital at Christmas time, but also got help from others at Mott Children's Hospital.

"She recruited everyone who came into her room and asked them to make a card for the soldiers and they did."

Boase said he showed the pictures of Faith to fellow troops.

"Everyone I showed it to cried. Her patriotism and love for us was amazing. It touched my whole brigade including senior commanders. We decided we wanted to do something for her. Not very many flags are flown here but we did this time and sent it to Faith."

The base's battalion commander Colonel R. J. Lillibridge signed the commemorative document verifying the authenticity.

When the family received the package on Friday, Faith was very excited to get something from her friend, Brian.

Susan Aisthorpe said Faith was confused at first about how the flag was folded but said she explained that was how it was supposed to be displayed and folded.

Susan said when she read the document accompanying the flag, she was moved.

"I couldn't read it without crying," said Susan. "I was so overwhelmed that they would do this for a child during a war."

Faith also realized how special the gift was and wanted it encased in a special box and hung so that she can see it everyday..

"I want to say 'thank you' to him for doing this for me," Faith said.

Boase saw it the other way around and said it was Faith's love that inspired the troops.

In one of her messages, Faith told a soldier to look up at the stars and know she was looking at the same stars that night.

The sentiment hit home for Boase because it's the same thing he tells his children when he talks to them.

"I think they have helped comfort each other," said Susan. "That is how Faith is. She naturally does things to try to help and comfort others."

That is what has amazed the men and women who are putting their lives on the line every day in Afghanistan.

"It amazed everyone here of the love she had for us to do what she did. She is our hero. We love her."

Former Leader Editor Dan Shriner will cover Wildcat football this season.
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