FORT DRUM, N.Y. (WWNY) - Every parent has written a note - maybe a simple ‘I love you’ - then slipped it into their child’s lunch.
For most of us, it’s an occasional thing. For Staff Sergeant Philip Gray, the lunch box notes are a lot more.
As he prepared to deploy from Fort Drum to Afghanistan with Charlie Company, 310 General Aviation Support Battalion, just before COVID-19 was changing everything, Sergeant Gray sat down and started writing.
“I wrote all of the notes in a span of about four days or so while we sat down and enjoyed our evenings together the week before I deployed," Sergeant Gray said.
He wrote 270 notes, one for each day he expected to be gone.
And while he was deployed, his wife Kristen would pack a message each day into daughter Rosie’s lunch box. Messages that said things like “Always smile, it always makes everyone else smile.”
(Philip will tell you Rosie has a great smile.)
And that would be the end of it, except...
Kristen Gray was so proud of her husband, she made a video of all his message cards and posted it to the TikTok social media platform.
“There was an online trend going on, and usually I don’t jump on any online trends, but this one was kind of like a husband brag," she said.
"I was thinking in my head, I don’t know what I can put into a 15-second video that would justify just how great of a husband and father he is. But then I was looking through the kitchen, cleaning out some of the drawers, and I saw all these notes. I said this would be perfect.”
The video quickly drew hundreds of thousands of views, and the attention of the syndicated “Kelly Clarkson Show.”
“I think it was just a couple days later after I had shared that video, I had an email from one of the producers saying that they wanted to include us in their Veterans Day show, and asked if we could get in touch and talk about it a little more. The following week we were filming the show," Kristen said.
And although Gray has been back home for about three months and is now able to tell Rosie how beautiful her smile is in person, Rosie still makes sure there’s a note packed in her lunchbox every day.
“The last thing she asks me before she goes to bed at night now is, “are you going to write me a note for tomorrow?” said Sergeant Gray.
"So I have to make sure she has a note every day.”