- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) The Virginia Air National Guard has found its inspiration: a 6-year-old girl.
A drawing signed "Darby" and bearing an American flag and the words "Thank you" was delivered to the National Guard base in Sandston a few days after the September 11 attacks. It became a source of inspiration for the guardsmen.
Col. Steve Hicks, commander of the 192nd Fighter Wing, had the drawing framed and hung it on the wall in his office. Col. Hicks decided to track down the young artist to thank him or her for helping lift the guard unit's morale.
Last week, that search paid off, as Lt. Col. Gary Denson, working with the Henrico County school system, learned the artist's identity.
Darby Hill, daughter of Rebecca and Chris Wilson of Varina, will enter the first grade next week. The story of her drawing and the search it inspired were featured in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and on local television stations, but she and her parents were unaware of it until Col. Denson contacted them.
In an interview with the Times-Dispatch after her discovery, Darby and her mother explained why she drew the picture and presented it to the Guard.
A day or two after September 11, Darby was home with her mother. "She was just coloring that day," her mother said. "I wasn't trying to hide anything from her. I told her about good guys and bad guys not to scare her, but explaining things."
Mrs. Wilson said she told Darby, "We're very fortunate that we have soldiers that protect us and look out for us and take care of us."
Her mother's words inspired Darby to show her gratitude for the armed forces' protection by drawing and coloring a picture and delivering it to the nearby National Guard base adjacent to Richmond International Airport.
The Virginia Air Guard's F-16 jet fighters began flying defensive air patrols over the District on September 11 and are still on call for the mission.
However, because of tight security around the base, Darby and her mother could go only as far as the main gate, where the guards promised to pass the drawing to Col. Hicks.
Once Col. Denson located Darby, he called to tell Col. Hicks at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., where the unit commander was wrapping up a training exercise. Col. Hicks was scheduled to fly home soon after, and made plans to meet the patriotic young artist.
Darby and her parents will visit the guard base soon so that the unit's 1,000 men and women can thank her for inspiring them in the days after the terrorist attacks.
"I'm going to sit in the fighter jet," Darby said.
"I'm going to sit in the very front seat."

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