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Silent superheroes

A letter is displayed on a desk at Aviano Air Base, Italy, April 1, 2020. Nine-year-old Leah, daughter of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Peterson, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 56th Helicopter Maintenance Unit, section chief, wrote the thank you letter to Aviano Commissary employees. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)

A letter is displayed on a desk at Aviano Air Base, Italy, April 1, 2020. Nine-year-old Leah, daughter of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Peterson, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 56th Helicopter Maintenance Unit, section chief, wrote the thank you letter to Aviano Commissary employees. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)

Nine-year-old Leah, daughter of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Peterson, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 56th Helicopter Maintenance Unit, section chief, Aviano Air Base, Italy, poses for a photo. (Courtesy Photo)

Nine-year-old Leah, daughter of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Peterson, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 56th Helicopter Maintenance Unit, section chief, Aviano Air Base, Italy, poses for a photo. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Peterson, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 56th Helicopter Maintenance Unit, section chief, and his family, Aviano Air Base, Italy, pose for a photo. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Peterson, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 56th Helicopter Maintenance Unit, section chief, and his family, Aviano Air Base, Italy, pose for a photo. (Courtesy Photo)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --

“I was choked up, filled with emotions that a nine year old girl took the time to write the commissary a letter,” said Ruben Nadal, commissary officer and store director at Aviano Air Base, Italy. “Not only was this month special to her as she celebrated her birthday during this difficult time, but she thought of all the commissary workers as ‘SUPERHEROES!’”

On Jan. 30, 2020 the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern for COVID-19.

“The dynamics of our household have changed a lot since COVID-19 hit Italy,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Peterson, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 56th Helicopter Maintenance Unit, section chief.  

Many things have changed for Peterson and his family, including their routines and schedules, but one thing they tried to keep the same was their daughter’s birthday celebration.

 “On our children’s birthdays, we always travel somewhere as family and eat good food with friends,” said Peterson.

As physical distancing and limited travel have become the new “norm,” Peterson’s family had to adapt.

“We were planning on going to the jump-park and water-park in Slovenia on her birthday but we had to postpone,” said Peterson. “We did our best to make the day about her and accommodate what she wanted to do.”

Peterson said he asked his daughter to make a list of how she wanted to spend the day, with an emphasis on what she wanted to eat.

“There are purchase restrictions at the Exchange due to Italian decrees and areas like the book section, toy section, and gaming section are blocked off, said Peterson. “Because of this, we weren’t able to shop for gifts like we normally would. So, we decided to celebrate her birthday with her favorite foods that her mom cooks.”

The family remained resilient by viewing their situation with a positive perspective.

“[Leah] always has a great way to see the glass as being halfway full and has a great outlook,” said Peterson. 

As Leah spent her birthday baking a cake with her family, playing in the yard with her siblings and enjoying her mother’s cooking, she kept something in mind: the silent superheroes.

Leah took it upon herself to write a letter to the employees of the Aviano commissary.

In the letter she explained she felt lonely on her birthday, but her father went to the base commissary and purchased really good food and her mother was able to cook the food. She wanted to thank the commissary employees for being her superheroes.

Leah titled the back page as “The Worlds Hero Commissary.”

“I would hope to personally get to meet Ms. Leah Peterson and thank her for her simple kindness letter when we all need some kindness,” said Nadal.

Peterson said they always teach their children to be thankful for what they have and what others do for them.

“The letter made us proud and put a smile on our faces. We wanted to make sure that the commissary workers knew that they helped make a little girl’s birthday great.”

Although times are tough, this can be the time to appreciate even the smallest things.

“During this time, we have learned to appreciate our day to day life more,” said Peterson. “Many people have lost loved ones to the virus and we are thankful that we still are healthy and have one another. We have enjoyed our family time and spending more time together.”