U.S. Navy Lieutenant gives special thanks to Corunna grocery store

CORUNNA, Ind. (WANE) – For six months, the troops in Iraq looked forward to packages from Kendallville. That usually meant Albright’s beef jerky was inside. Now, the guys at Albright’s are learning exactly what their jerky meant to those thousands of miles away from home.

This week owner of Albright’s One Stop Grocery Store in Corunna, David Albright, was gifted with a flag that was flown over the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center. However, the journey to that honor started more than a decade ago.

“During that deployment was the first time my mom, Tena, and my stepdad, Doug, decided to send out some of Albright’s beef jerky,” U.S. Navy Lt. Kris Bodenhafer said.

Bodenhafer, a Kendallville native, was first deployed to Indonesia in 2005 to help with tsunami relief. Like a lot of families back home, Tena and Doug Crooks sent Bodenhafer a package. Included in it was that beef Jerky.

“Here they are away from home serving us, and any chance we can take to make them feel at home means a lot of us,” Doug Crooks said.

“My Chief and multiple other people in my work space were like how do we get a hold of this,” Bodenhafer said. “It’s so good.”

Eventually Bodenhafer returned to the U.S. and continued his career as a naval officer. Then, last summer he was deployed to Iraq for six months. Before leaving he stopped by Albright’s.

“Little did they know I asked them how much they had, and they said 12 pounds, and I said I’d take it all,” Bodenhafer said.

Bodenhafer remembered how popular the jerky was in Indonesia so he wanted to bring it to the troops in Iraq. Albright’s sold it to him at a discount knowing where it was going.

Eventually that batch ran out. So, it was mom to the rescue.

“I’d walk in and say could you fix me up another box,” Tena Crooks said. “Within a day or two they had it done.”

In all, Bodenhafer thinks about 45-50 pounds of beef jerky went to Iraq.

“It’s unbelievable when you think about it,” Albright’s Owner David Albright said.

It wasn’t just a snack. Bodenhafer said it was a real morale booster.

“I know in that last third of deployment it was a huge morale booster,” he said. “A box would come in from Kendallville, and the guys were like is that one your mom sent just for you or does that have beef jerky.”

Special enough a flag was flown in its honor in Iraq, and finally made it to Albright’s One Stop.

“I’m pretty speechless,” Albright’s employee Derek Stafford said. “What he’s doing is hard. We do something as simple as making jerky.”

Bodenhafer now lives in Washington state so could not deliver the flag in person. However, he said he’s looking forward to his next trip home, and to Albright’s.