Floridians Offer Thanks for Military Personnel Traveling Unit Records Messages

Article excerpt

Byline: Jessie-Lynne Kerr, Times-Union staff writer

ORANGE PARK -- Elia Matos said it simply, with bubbly enthusiasm: "I'm so proud of you, I love you, and I'll pray for you."

She has never met the intended recipient of the message, which now must travel thousands of miles.

Matos, 78, was among nearly 40 people at the Orange Park Mall yesterday who took advantage of an offer to record a digital video message to troops and others serving in America's war on terrorism as part of the "Give Thanks America" mobile tour.

"Hey guys, I feel so grateful about what you are doing over there for our country. God is with you, and we will be victorious," she said.

Matos, who has lived in Orange Park for the past 11 years, was born in Puerto Rico and lived in New York City for 40 years. She said she had no relative or friend in the armed forces but wanted to express her gratitude to all those who are serving.

"I'm just so proud of what our people are doing that I just had to let them know," Matos said.

Norb Logsdon of Orange Park recorded a specific message for his sister, Marine 1st Lt. Trish Ruf, an aviation supply officer serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Nine years ago, Logsdon retired as a gunnery sergeant after 22 years in the Marine Corps. In his message, he offered some brotherly affection:

"Hey Trish, how are you doing? I really look forward to your e-mails. I miss you and I pray for your safety and I pray for you to stay focused."

In her e-mails, his sister jokingly calls her quarters the Ritz-Carlton Kandahar, even though they have no heat or air-conditioning.

"She is courageous," Logsdon said of his sister, who is facing combat for the first time in the 13 years she has been a Marine. "When the military action started over there, she was itching to get in it."

Logsdon appeared to have tears in his eyes as he completed recording his message. Then he was hugged by Gail Plumberg, the official hugger among the "Give Thanks America" crew.

Traveling with Plumberg were Billy Sanez and Kevin Beagley. All are Dallas-based public relations representatives for Compaq Computer Corp., the tour sponsor.

Compaq lost five employees who were attending a conference at the World Trade Center in New York the morning of Sept. …