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News > Locals send big 'thank you' to Team Offutt
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OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Every year, a message appears in local fields near Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., for Airmen to read as they fly overhead. Two fields are used to communicate these thank-you notes, and this year, the message reads "You Make America Proud!" (Photo courtesy/Chris Shotton)
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A big "thank you" to Team Offutt

Posted 5/3/2011   Updated 11/14/2011 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Peter R.O. Danielson
55th Wing Public Affairs

5/3/2011 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb.  -- There are many different ways to thank someone for their service. A handshake, smile or nod are ways an average citizen will react to a servicemember. However, some like to show that their gratitude stretches a mile wide.

A message appears every year in local fields for Airmen to read as they fly overhead.

Although the field is covered by snow for most of the winter and filled with soybeans for the majority of the summer, the message is written to make sure Team Offutt knows the men and women of Bellevue are behind them.

This year, the message reads "You Make America Proud!" Previous years have read "Thank you for Freedom!"

Two fields are used to communicate these thank you notes. One is located at the intersection of US Highway 75 and Nebraska Highway 370 and the other is located at Ft. Crook Road east of Offutt. Both fields belong to local farmers who allow Chris Shotton to show his appreciation to Offutt's population.

As a manager of a superstore in Council Bluffs in 2001, Shotton knew he wanted to do something special for his military neighbors. He proposed that the chain share words of encouragement to the troops. The question was how to deliver those words.

Shotton proposed plowing a message in a soybean field so planes flying into Offutt will be able to read it.

"It'll only work in a bean field," said Shotton. "The letters will show up clearly almost to space when you till up the dark earth underneath."

After the fall's harvest, a new message is selected by the store associates based on its impact and brevity. Each worker gets a vote on what will be said in the mile-long note to Airmen above.

Previous experience with surveying equipment makes the task easier, but not much less daunting, he said.

A dozen volunteers from the Bellevue store and the community go into the field with 500 stakes and 3,500 pounds of flour to mark out lines.

"It's hard to tell where you're supposed to be at times," said Mr. Shotton. "You can be on one side of the white line, and that could be any part of your 300-foot high letter."

Once a mistake is made, there's no going back.

"I might as well offer to plow the whole field if I mess up once," he said.

Regardless of the pressure he feels to honor the military properly, Mr. Shotton is glad to undertake this work each year.

"It's a lot of fun," he said. "There's a lot of pride that we all feel in what we do. We wouldn't be the same without Offutt."

The same could be said for the Bellevue community.

"Team Offutt is grateful to Shotton for his 'thank you' message," said Brig. Gen. Donald Bacon, 55th Wing commander. "Our aircrews see this every day. This being my family's third assignment to Offutt, I find this very indicative of how this wonderful Bellevue community makes our military members feel welcome."

7/1/2011 3:45:43 PM ET
Hats off to this farmer and even more so to our service men and women for keeping the Freedom alive Happy 4th of July to all of you Mariette
Mariette's Back to Basics, Georgia
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