UPDATE: Cleveland welcomed home one of its young heroes on Saturday.
Family, friends and community leaders cheered 1st Lieutenant Kaylee Marie Radzyminski at a reception at American Legion Post 81. Lt. Radzyminski is visiting Cleveland after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. She's a graduate of Cleveland High School where she started an organization called Tunes 4 the Troops. Radzyminski is also a Tennessee Tech ROTC graduate where she was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army
She says she's reached these goals with help and support of her family and community.
"I could not do it alone, my mom and i could not do it alone. Its been the people around us. Supporting me, believing in me. (It) goes to show that if you have a goal, and you have the support system around you, you can achieve anything that you set your mind too," said 1st Lt. Radzyminski
Kaylee returns to Fort Campbell on Sunday. In May, she'll be promoted to Captain, then sent to Arizona for 6 months of school before being sent to an undisclosed location.
COOKEVILLE, TN (WRCB)- Each month, WRCB and the Chattanooga Times Free Press honor an outstanding local citizen with the Jefferson Award, often called the "Nobel Prize of public service." Our latest honoree is Kaylee Marie Radzyminski, whose simple idea of providing entertainment for our overseas troops has become a national phenomenon.
On the campus of Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Kaylee is a typical sophomore student. But fellow students and teachers are learning that Kaylee has a past; a very impressive one for a nineteen year old. She has unselfishly donated her time to make others happy.
She started a program that came to be known as Tunes 4 the Troops in 8th Grade, when kaylee learned that servicemen and women had to pack light for their overseas duty, with room only for necessities.
Kaylee said, "I asked my Mom if I could send some CD's and DVDs to the troops. Little did we know that five years later we would have over 700,000 items shipped overseas."
It was certainly never Kaylee's intention to head up a nationwide effort, but the reaction from the first few shipments touched the teenager so deeply, she knew she couldn't stop.
Kaylee said, "It really hit me when we started hearing back from soldiers, and how it affected their lives. Some of them were losing fellow soldiers in combat, and they said gestures like this really helped get their mind off of things. It makes me cry just thinking about it."
As word spread outside of Cleveland High School, folks all over the nation pitched in, donating CD's, cash, or shipping supplies. Kaylee's work was all volunteer, but she was awarded a full four year army ROTC scholarship to Tennessee Tech.
Kaylee estimates she's spent more than 6,000 hours on the project, and admits that's she missed the proms, the athletic events and social activities that make up most of a teenage girl's calendar. Does she have any regrets?
"Now that I look back on it, I wouldn't change a thing," she says. "It wasn't about me, it was affecting other people in a positive way."
As this youthful role model advances toward graduation and a career in the Army Corps of Engineers, what happens to the project that remains so close to her heart? She's happy to report that it isn't going away.
"Tunes 4 the Troops has actually partnered with the Service learning Center at the university," she says. "So the students and faculty will definitely be able to continue it after my graduation date."
Kaylee tells us she will be thrilled to some day get a box of CDs from whoever takes the reins of Tunes 4 the Troops when she is serving America. For more information on how to nominate a deserving person for a Jefferson Award for public service, visit wrcbtv.com or timesfreepress.com.