Crystal Garmon: Sacrifices from back home

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A Hilton Head Island teen uses her Sweet 16 party to ask for a little something more than presents.

Crystal Garmon’sSixteen-year-old Crystal Garmon’s got it made, and she knows it. She also knows who to thank, at least in part, for the comfort and freedom she enjoys at her Hilton Head Island home. “I think it’s really cool that (those in the Armed Forces) would just give up their lives to defend this country,” said Crystal, a sophomore at Hilton Head Island High School. “We have a great life here, and they’re out there su ering in the cold and the dirt.”

The image of troops putting themselves in harm’s way troubled Crystal, who had an idea while working with her parents on invitations to her Sweet 16 party in December: In lieu of presents, she would ask for donations that would go toward care packages for troops. “Her dad and I just looked at each other, puzzled,” said Crystal’s mom, Michelle Garmon.

Crystal said her friends were even more perplexed.

“They were kind of like ‘Really? I would never be able to do that,’ ” Crystal said.

But she shrugs off the decision as not that big a deal. “They make really big sacrifices for us, you know? This is not that big of a sacrifice,” she said. “It’s just a birthday.”

Her wish was granted: Friends and family gave Crystal $395 toward the cause. Using www.anysoldier.com, Crystal found nine local Marines serving overseas and spent about $200 at Sam’s Club buying candy, snacks, lip balm, sanitary wipes, hot chocolate packets and other treats. In each package, she included a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a personal letter, asking the troops to tell her what they most needed (or wanted) from home. She plans to spend the other half of her donations fulfi lling those requests.

Crystal’s packages shipped Jan. 12 and weren’t expected to arrive for two to four weeks. While she waits for responses, she’s continuing her volunteer work at Plantation Animal Hospital and exploring whether her lifelong love of animals might be a professional calling.

“Over the years we’ve had to rescue everything under the sun,” her mother joked about Crystal’s big heart for animals. Turns out she’s got a soft spot for troops, too.