Thin Mints are my favorite Girl Scout cookie, especially if they come right out of the freezer. They're my husband's favorite, too, but he also likes Tagalongs.
We're trying not to eat that stuff anymore, so no Girl Scout cookies in our house this year. We still bought a couple boxes, but rather than eat them ourselves, we donated them back to the troop selling them.
My friend, Erin Nelson, is the leader of both her daughters' troops. Sarah, 9, is in Brownie Troop 208, and Emily, 6, is in Daisies Troop 1118. Both are based at Forest Lakes Elementary School, where Sarah is in third grade and Emily is in first.
Besides selling cookies to individuals, their troops take part in the "Gift of Caring," in which they solicit cookie donations. Nelson and her troops have chosen the last two years to donate to members of the military who are returning home from a deployment, through Operation Welcome Home Maryland.
"I know so many people in the military," Erin said. "To be away for so long … I thought what better way to come home than with a note and a box of Girls Scout cookies."
Operation Welcome Home Maryland is open to any organization or individual that wants to help greet soldiers, marines, airmen or other military members as they return to the United States. Since March 2007, volunteers have welcomed home more than 150,000 members, according to the group's website, http://www.operationwelcomehomemd.org. Troops are coming home all the time, and the group aims to have people there to welcome them every time they arrive, which in October is on 15 of 31 days.
Sarah and Emily, their mom and fellow Girls Scouts will be at BWI Airport during their Christmas break, handing out boxes of cookies to military and their families.
Last year was the first year they donated to Welcome Home, and liked it so much they're going back again this year.
"I think they've been out fighting for our country for a very long time, and it's very special to give them cookies, for us to thank them," Sarah said. "I think it made them feel very welcome back home and happy, because I saw a lot of smiles on their faces."
Military homecomings are very emotional for everyone involved. The waiting areas are jammed with people — moms, dads, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, friends — all eager to welcome home their special someone. They're holding signs, American flags and cheering so loud as their loved one emerges from customs.
"It's very emotional, people are crying," Erin said, "at the excitement for them to be back on U.S. soil. There are no words for it."
My husband and I got to experience a welcome home celebration by accident. We came home from our honeymoon the same time a group arrived home from a deployment. We came out from customs to those cheers and greetings for the men and women around us. It was awesome to experience that patriotism and feel the love that night in the airport, but I felt embarrassed being there, almost like we were taking away from their homecoming by walking through. Not that we could help it, but this was their moment, their time, we didn't need to be there.
Sarah thinks the soldiers appreciate what the girls are doing.
"We really just welcome them home to where they live," she said. "If I were a soldier and walked through that door, I would be very surprised and happy."
Nelson's goal is to have each Girl Scout in her troops to be able to give out at least one box of cookies and a letter that accompanies it. Last year, they gave out cookies to 240 members of the military.
The two troops are again asking for cookie donations for their return to the airport to welcome home more troops. Individual sales are closed, but boxes still can be donated at the troops' booth sales.
Sarah's troop, 208, will be at Redner's Warehouse Market Oct. 28 and at Walgreens in Forest Hill Nov. 12, 9 a.m. to noon both days.
Emily's troop, 1118, will be at Redner's Nov. 5 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. and at Walgreens Nov. 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
So if you haven't bought your Girl Scout cookies yet, and see a group of Scouts out somewhere selling theirs, buy a box for yourself, and while you're at it, chip in an extra $4 to put a smile on the face of a soldier, marine or airman as he or she comes home from serving our country. What a great welcome home gift.