WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — In some professions, you can collect symbolic trinkets of honor. For us in journalism, it's press badges. In the military, they get combat patches, and one man from Warner Robins, Jacob Neal, thinks folks that are working on the front lines against coronavirus deserve a badge of honor.
"I grew up in Warner Robins, home of the Northside Eagles -- 'It's always great to be a Northside Eagle,'" Jacob said with pride.
Neal graduated from Northside in 1992 and immediately enlisted in the Army.
He served in four conflicts.
"I fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom twice, and I was also stationed in Kuwait sitting at the tail end of Desert Storm and Desert Shield for another operation," he recalled.
He's got pictures to remember his time as a war fighter, but he has something else, something that means a lot to him.
"I knew our combat patch was our pride and what we use to validate us as war fighters in the on the battlefield," Neal said.
Neal says over the last few months, he's heard the phrase that health-care workers are going into a battlefield every time they punch in to go to work against coronavirus.
That gave him an idea, inspired in part by his niece Deona Coney, who is a nurse in Warner Robins.
"So I said, 'They deserve a combat patch,'" he exclaimed.
They're called "CAMs," and it stands for "COVID Angel of Mercy."
He's created a website and selling them for $7 each, but he doesn't want health-care workers and support staff buying them for themselves.
"But the spirit of the patch is for philanthropist communities to take care of their own. We've been seeing everything about how much we appreciate them," he explained. "Let's show them how much we appreciate them by giving them their very own badge of courage that they duly earned."
So far, he's sold 5,000 patches -- they've even reached the United Kingdom and Afghanistan.
None of us knows how long the coronavirus pandemic will last, but through Neal's work, folks will have a token of appreciation, a symbol that shows their commitment to fighting an invisible enemy.
Half of the money from that $7 price tag is going into a scholarship fund. It's for the families that have lost a health-care worker to COVID-19.
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