On September 27th, the Department of Defense designated the Spirit of Hope award to recipients representing the 5 branches of military service. The award is given to nominees who best reflect the patriotism and service epitomized by late celebrity Bob Hope; one of the honorees is a beloved part of the Rakkasan Family.
Cindy Boyd was born into a life of being a military supporter. Her father was a soldier in WWII and had several uncles in both the Army and Navy, her cousin is a Marine who served in Vietnam and in the generation that follows, she has a Rakkasan Nephew.
“If Bob Hope were around today, Cindy would be on tour with him!” – Mike Smith, Hamburger Hill Association Treasurer and National Association Board Member
Her work from the home front began by supporting that young nephew and his friends in the 101st. From there she kept “adopting” soldiers from all over the country. One care package grew to dozens, the dozens swelled in the thousands annually. Her philanthropic workload is staggering: “I do holiday treat bags for deployed soldiers for Valentines, Easter, 4th July, Halloween and Christmas. Last year I had units in Poland, Korea, and Afghanistan (that were 12 SF soldiers) we did over 750 for each holiday-it just depends on where my boys are and how many they are responsible for.” She owns three companies in Gotha, Florida – all of which are corporate sponsors for the 101st Airborne Association and the 187th Infantry Regiment, National Rakkasan Association.
In recent years, where there is a gathering of good times, reflection and honoring service to soldiers of the 101st, you will find Cindy Boyd. In her free time she also donates her reverence to members of the Sea Services. In the spring of 2019 she traveled to Japan for ten days with veterans walking the black sands of Iwo Jima. “I admire the Marines/Navy vets from Iwo Jima. I wasn’t carrying a pack or weapon, I wasn’t wearing combat boots, I wasn’t being fired upon, and it was HOT. It was difficult for me to climb the hill off that beach….how the heck did they do it?” She relays with selfless reflection.
In May of this year, at the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Hamburger Hill, Cindy was recognized as an Honorary Member of the Regiment by the National Rakkasan Association. Former 3rd Battalion, 187th infantry Commanding Officer LTC Martin Bowling explains her bearing on his service; “I first met Cindy soon after assuming command of the Iron Rakkasans in the summer of 2017 and right away we knew that she was a very special person in the best kind of way. From her glowing, magnetic personality and beautiful smile you could see that she truly cared about what she was doing for the Soldiers and Veterans of the Rakkasans. As all of you know, my two priorities for the Iron Rakkasans while I was in command were to "Prepare for Combat" and "Rebuild the bridge between our currently serving Rakkasans and our Rakkasan Veterans" and Cindy had a significant impact on us as she was always a key part of our efforts. She literally volunteered her own time and money over and over to be a part of the important work that was being done over the course of my two years as we worked towards the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Hamburger Hill.”
"Cindy has been and always will be an important member of Rakkasan Association support to the soldiers of the 187th Regiment. Her caring and support is unmatched" - Bob Harkins, President, Hamburger Hill Association and National Rakkasan Association
Her genuinely altruistic heart leads her to worry that she’s being intrusive. “I sometimes think that I am an imposition on the soldiers, but so far none have actually told me to butt out. In my mind, maybe not in reality, I fill a need for active duty-whether it be a sounding board, things I can do for them, trips we take - and I keep pushing. For the Vets, I can help pick up the hospitality room (at reunions)… let them just sit and enjoy the company of those they served with.”
Unable to pinpoint a single figure who inspires her most, Cindy described some of the heroes who have left a permanent impression on her. She draws strength from a Rakkasan who was believed to be mortally wounded in 2010 and if he did live, it was believed he would be significantly disabled. "He fought back and overcame all obstacles. He inspires me... He is still active duty and since that injury he has completed airborne, pathfinder and rescue diver schools." Sam Hoskins, Rakkasan veteran who was blinded in an explosion on Hamburger Hill, teaches her to keep her eyes on all the things she has to be grateful for. "To not see daylight for 50 years and have the sense of humor he does and be the kind and gentle man I know him to be is humbling. How can I ever be justified in complaining about anything?"
When pressured to pick a war fighting, all time MVP unit, she couldn't love one more than the other. She applauded the tenacity of modern day Rakkasans - "Her boys", who she will do anything to support. She reiterated her reverence to the Marines at Iwo Jima and the brave men of Easy Company in WWII. Her involvement with the Hamburger Hill veterans have left her; "In awe of their ability to go forward after the war in a country that did not honor them in the way America should have done - most of these men were drafted into service and they still did their best."
"She is an Angel on Earth. She does so much for others and expects nothing in return. I absolutely love her. There just aren’t enough words to describe what a wonderful person and Patriot she is. She is always taking care of Soldiers and their Families." -Sheila Patton, Wife and Gold Star Mother of the 187th Infantry Regiment
Cindy has an incomparable devotion as a friend, protector and an unselfish mother-figure to active duty soldiers, “I believe the soldiers, young and old, have added more to my life than I have ever given to them. They give me purpose, they call, text and email to check on me. They have become my family and they own my heart. Sometimes I think I need to back off, but I don’t think I could do it... I would miss them... I’m addicted.” She continues with her admiration to veterans; “Veterans have welcomed me into their ranks and included me as if I had served with them. I feel fortunate to be involved and to be able to spend time in the company of heroes of all eras.”
Military supporters pray for safe travels for their loved ones and hope for support to keep their morale up, Cindy actually delivers. LTC Bowling explained the impact of civilian devotees to a service member’s optimism; “I've watched it ebb and flow and I understand that Socio-political events impact levels of patriotism in different ways across our diverse country. But what I can't imagine ever having to live without, as a Soldier and Veteran, are the Cindy Boyds of the world. Patriots like her are like the lighthouses that Sailors hoped to see decades ago indicating they were near land or coming close to their home port and when you see them, you smile, you feel a since of relief and also pride because you know that someone cares and someone understands that what we do still matters, every day. Whether you're training for years at Ft Campbell or you're deployed around the world, every Soldier knows they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and our Patriots like Cindy are a big part of that ecosystem, they matter and I can't imagine not having her and others like her doing what they do.”
At the time of this article being written, Cindy was at an Easy Company Reunion in New Orleans. Her care and concern for active members of the military and Veterans of all ages seems to be limitless and spans across the different branches of service, but the 187th becoming the focus of her generosity is more than any of them could have ever Hoped for.