Operation Sweet Tooth
By Cadet Kathryn Kennedy, Bethel Navy JROTC Public Affairs Officer
With all the bad news in the headlines and news articles lately, the presence of something “sweet” is a relief. Four years ago, Cadets in Bethel High School’s Navy JROTC program realized this pressing concern and acted upon it; Operation Sweet Tooth was initiated.
Headed by the Bethel NJROTC program and the professional staff at the Bethel Gentle Dental office, Operation Sweet Tooth collects donated candy after Halloween to be sent overseas to impoverished children. Handed to them personally by military personnel who serve as the Ambassadors of Bethel, these children are given a taste of sweetness and American hospitality to ease the hardships they endure each day.
This year, former Bethel cadet, 1st Lt. Erick Laque, USMC, received the donated candy and noted that his platoon “travelled throughout many districts in the Helmand Province [of Afghanistan], covering an area almost the size of Connecticut” and was proud to be a part of an operation giving thousands of children candy. Laque and his platoon were fortunate enough to interact with the children, who would often chase their vehicles barefoot, awaiting the treasured treats.
From this single, selfless action, Laque noted that “the people of Afghanistan appreciate the small act of kindness and it goes a long way. These children may grow to remember the Americans were good people and their parents may decide to side with Coalition Forces instead of the Taliban, even from something so small”.
To many, a piece of candy may appear insignificant or powerless; but what is done with that piece of candy can create a great relationship. From the cooperation of Bethel NJROTC Cadets, local trick-or-treaters, Bethel Gentle Dental, and 1st Lt. Laque and his platoon, Operation Sweet Tooth enabled our Marines to foster a relationship with those we are protecting while instilling hope in the hearts and minds of many Americans, as it serves as a gentle reminder that many of our nation’s best and brightest are still serving in harm’s way.
We thank 1st Lt. Laque and the Marines of the Motor Transport Platoon of 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Combat Team 7 for serving as our ambassadors of Bethel and helping us further our educational reach in citizenship development and cultural awareness. We wish them a safe return home to their families and friends, and hope they will always remember that the people of Bethel are truly thankful for their selfless service to our country.