Message of love gets a lift on its way to the Gulf
Stars and Stripes June 11, 2003
STAPLES, Minn. — A red balloon was a message of love from an 8-year-old Staples, Minn., girl to her Marine dad stationed in the Persian Gulf region.
Cierra Waverek had hoped when she released the balloon May 15 it would fly all the way to her dad, who was then in Bahrain.
She wrote her name and address, and the address of her father, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mark Waverek, on a note and attached it to the balloon before setting it aloft.
Her father told her during a telephone call he would catch the balloon if he saw it flying by.
But the balloon landed about 170 miles away from Staples in Goodhue, Minn. On May 17, Goodhue farmer Bruce McNamara was tending to his cornfield and found something red next to his tractor. It was Cierra’s balloon.
Her writing was still visible on the tattered, deflated balloon as well as the note.
McNamara brought the balloon inside at lunchtime to show his wife, Marie. The couple, who own a 230-acre farm, got out a state map and figured the balloon traveled about 170 miles.
They could tell a child sent the balloon because of the handwriting.
Bruce McNamara suggested they mail the balloon back.
“I thought the little girl would be sad if she got the balloon back,” Marie McNamara said. “So I said, ‘Oh, Bruce, we have to mail it to her dad.’ I was very touched to see this little girl write to her dad and I thought, ‘Gee, I bet he misses his family.’”
On May 22, the McNamaras mailed the balloon and a letter to Waverek in Bahrain. They also sent a letter to Cierra explaining they found her balloon and mailed it to her dad.
Waverek received the balloon last week in Kuwait.
The girl’s mother, Charlene Waverek, was so moved by the McNamaras’ letter, she couldn’t get through the first paragraph.
“She was crying,” Cierra said.
Cierra came up with the idea to loft a balloon to her father following a May 15 family fun night at Staples Elementary School in Staples.
Cierra and her 6-year-old brother, Dakota, each took home balloons from the event.
During the ride home, their mother told the children that when she was in elementary school, she and her classmates released balloons bearing their names and addresses to see how far they would travel.
Cierra began to think about sending her balloon to her father.
She drew rainbows and hearts all over the balloon, writing messages such as, “I love you, daddy” and “I miss you.”
Her mother helped her attach a note.
The girl released the balloon from the back door — her 14-year-old brother, Nicholas, told her that was the way to Bahrain.
Cierra stood in the back yard and watched the balloon float away until it disappeared over the horizon. That night, she wrote a letter to her dad.
“I am sending you a balloon with my address on it and yours so if you see a balloon floating, try to grab it daddy ’cause it’s from me because I wanted to see if it would work,” Cierra wrote. “I miss you very, very, very, very much.”
Charlene Waverek and her four children, ages 6-14, moved from Japan to Staples in January; her husband remained to finish his military career.
Then the war in Iraq began, and Mark Waverek was sent to Qatar and is now in Kuwait.
Charlene Waverek hoped there was a chance someone would find the balloon, but she knew the chances were slim.
“I would say it’s a miracle,” Charlene Waverek said. “A balloon lands in a yard of people caring enough to send it. This balloon was destined to get to her dad.”
Jodie Tweed writes for the Brainerd (Minn.) Daily Dispatch.
'It was destined to be there'
By Roger Harnack,Stars and StripesEuropean edition, Wednesday, June 11, 2003
WASHINGTON — Cierra Waverek was nearly speechless Monday after learning the balloon she launched May 15 from the back yard of her family’s home in Staples, Minn., had been delivered to her father, Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mark Waverek, more than 6,750 miles away in Kuwait.
During a telephone interview, the shy 8-year-old girl said she was “kinda” excited about the delivery of the balloon she sent her father “’cause he’s at work.”
Waverek, who could not be reached for comment, is a postal officer with U.S. Central Command Joint Postal Command, his wife, Charlene Waverek, said.
The balloon, which initially traveled about 170 miles before landing in a cornfield and being mailed by a farmer to the Middle East, has brought the family closer together, she said.
“It was destined to be there,” Charlene Waverek said, noting her husband called early Monday morning to say he received the balloon. “I think it’s great. Cierra is so excited.”
Waverek said she, too, is excited.
“I am surprised he received it so quickly,” she said, adding her husband received his Easter card little more than a week ago. “Somebody hand-carried that one piece of mail (the balloon) to him.
“It’s amazing. We didn’t think he get it for a long time.”
According to Waverek, the family recently purchased their home in Staples, about 140 miles northwest of Minneapolis, Minn., after living more than three years at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan.
The Waverek family plans to remain in Staples after Mark Waverek completes 22 years of Marine Corps service in October.