Adopt a hero In 2004, 12-year-old Ryan Rust faced his grandfather’s deployment overseas by sending grandpa 13 care packages over the course of a year. Then he thought about all those other Marines who may not have been fortunate enough to have someone to send them a letter or care package, and Adopt-A-Marine was born. Then Adopt-A- Sailor, Airman, Coast Guard, and Soldier came along, all consolidated under the website Adopt-A-Hero.

Adopt-A-Hero (AAH) directly links together service members who wish to be “adopted” with individuals and families who wish to “adopt.” Acting as an intermediary, AAH maintains a list of service members waiting to be adopted and matches them with volunteers who agree to send letters and care packages on a regular basis. Volunteers then send their items directly to their overseas service members.

If you are a service member, you, you and your family, or you and your platoon can register here to “be adopted.” If you would like to adopt a service member, register here. AAH takes approximately one week to link sponsors and adoptees.

Adopt-A-Hero simply asks both sponsors and adoptees to let the organization know if either party can no longer participate, to make sure as many heroes and volunteers are linked together as possible at all times. They don’t act as intermediaries on the mailing front; they simply link troops with sponsors.

Nine years later, Ryan and his family continue to run this non-profit organization without accepting any donations. Over 100,000 individuals and families have volunteered their time and energy in helping over 2000 service members receive more than 62,000 pieces of mail (both letters and care packages). That’s 62,000 smiles.

Ryan, now a young adult, races trucks in NASCAR and uses his visibility to help promote Adopt-A-Hero.  The Rust Family nor any of the numerous volunteers have accepted any pay; all donations and sponsorships go directly to maintaining the troop database and advertising.

Those 62,000 smiles? All started by one 12-year-old missing his grandpa. Why don’t you make the smile count 62,001?


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