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Local boy shakes hands, warms hearts

Ten-year old Jeffrey from Agawam, Mass. shakes hands and obtains the autographs of more than 200 Airmen during lunch hour at the Westover Consolidated Club on August 7, 2016. Jeffrey is on a mission to see how many veterans he can thank before Veteran's Day this year. Jeffrey was coined by members from several squadrons at Westover, including the 439th Civil Engineering Squadron "dirt boys."

Ten-year old Jeffrey from Agawam, Mass., shakes hands and obtains the autographs of more than 200 Airmen during lunch hour at the Westover Consolidated Club on August 7, 2016. Jeffrey is on a mission to see how many veterans he can thank before Veteran's Day this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/ TSgt. Amelia Leonard)

Ten-year old Jeffrey from Agawam, Mass. shakes hands and obtains the autographs of more than 200 Airmen during lunch hour at the Westover Consolidated Club on August 7, 2016. Jeffrey is on a mission to see how many veterans he can thank before Veteran's Day this year.

Ten-year old Jeffrey from Agawam, Mass., shakes hands and obtains the autographs of more than 200 Airmen during lunch hour at the Westover Consolidated Club on August 7, 2016. Jeffrey is on a mission to see how many veterans he can thank before Veteran's Day this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/ TSgt. Amelia Leonard)

Ten-year old Jeffrey from Agawam, Mass. shakes hands and obtains the autographs of more than 200 Airmen during lunch hour at the Westover Consolidated Club on August 7, 2016. Jeffrey is on a mission to see how many veterans he can thank before Veteran's Day this year. Jeffrey was coined by members from several squadrons at Westover, including the 439th Civil Engineering Squadron "dirt boys."

Ten-year old Jeffrey from Agawam, Mass. shakes hands and obtains the autographs of more than 200 Airmen during lunch hour at the Westover Consolidated Club on August 7, 2016. Jeffrey is on a mission to see how many veterans he can thank before Veteran's Day this year. Jeffrey was coined by members from several squadrons at Westover, including the 439th Civil Engineering Squadron "dirt boys."

Ten-year old Jeffrey from Agawam, Mass. shakes hands and obtains the autographs of more than 200 Airmen during lunch hour at the Westover Consolidated Club on August 7, 2016. Jeffrey is on a mission to see how many veterans he can thank before Veteran's Day this year.

Ten-year old Jeffrey from Agawam, Mass., shakes hands and obtains the autographs of more than 200 Airmen during lunch hour at the Westover Consolidated Club on August 7, 2016. Jeffrey is on a mission to see how many veterans he can thank before Veteran's Day this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/ TSgt. Amelia Leonard)

Ten-year old Jeffrey from Agawam, Mass. shakes hands and obtains the autographs of more than 200 Airmen during lunch hour at the Westover Consolidated Club on August 7, 2016. Jeffrey is on a mission to see how many veterans he can thank before Veteran's Day this year.

Ten-year old Jeffrey from Agawam, Mass., shakes hands and obtains the autographs of more than 200 Airmen during lunch hour at the Westover Consolidated Club on August 7, 2016. Jeffrey is on a mission to see how many veterans he can thank before Veteran's Day this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/ TSgt. Amelia Leonard)

WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. -- Ten-year old Jeffrey from Agawam, Massachusetts, is on a mission. His mission isn’t to catch the most Pokemon, play in World Series, or even kiss a girl; he wants to shake hands with, and thank every active and veteran military member he comes across until Veteran’s Day. He always carries a little black notebook so that if he meets a vet, he can shake their hand and get their autograph.

His grandfather, a former member of the Navy, instilled in him a love and appreciation for the military. His death prompted his quest. “I decided I wanted to do a campaign to see how many vets I can thank before Veteran’s Day,” said Jeffrey.

On Aug. 7, Jeffrey shook more hands and got more autographs than he could have ever imagined when he came to Westover to visit with some of our Airmen.

Jeffrey arrived with his mother during lunch hour and brought his notebook, a giant poster board that read, “Thank you for your service,” and approximately 200 small American flags to give to our members. “I just want to thank as many veterans as I can,” he said.

He stood in the Westover Consolidated Club patiently waited for members to finish their lunch. He was grinning ear-to-ear knowing that within minutes, he would be shaking hands and thanking members as reservists exited the building. “This is a day he is never going to forget,” said Genevieve Szulc, Jeffrey’s mother.

Within 10 minutes of his arrival, the word of his presence had spread around Westover. Three squadron shops decided to coin Jeffrey, because although he was there to thank them, they also wanted to thank him.

“It was beyond honorable and heartwarming,” said Staff Sgt. Stephan Dacosta, member of the 439th Civil Engineering Squadron. “The CES is a tight-knit unit, and all the ‘dirt boys’ talked it over as a team and wanted to give him our shop coin to help him remember the day and encourage him to pursue his long-term goal of joining the military,” he said.

Jeffrey, who says he wants to be a Navy Seal or National Football League player when he grows up, shook the hands of nearly 150 members at Westover and will be continuing on with his quest at the Soldier’s Home in Holyoke as well as the Agawam Senior Center.

“I love the military because all the people who are in it are keeping us safe every day and making sure we have a better life,” Jeffrey said.

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