They spend the holiday season away from their families, often in dangerous and uncomfortable conditions. Now, charities and school groups across the country are trying to give back to U.S. military members by sending Christmas cards and greetings to soldiers overseas.
Lynchburg Elementary School recently participated by collecting a number of items to box and send to troops — just a little reminder of home and “thank you’ during what can often be a tough holiday season for soldiers abroad.
“That’s the worse time of year to be away because there are so many great memories you’ve got of the holidays,” said Moore County High School principal Buddy Smith, who retired from military service following a lengthy career. “Those are all on your mind when you’re overseas, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas … it weighs on you.”
The annual holiday drives are designed to cheer up troops unable to come home in December.
The Red Cross’ Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign, one of the more popular programs, allows anyone to send holiday greetings to military members and veterans. Cards had to be prepared and mailed by last week for that program.
For those looking for an easier approach, military supporters can share seasonal messages with troops by using the hashtag #HolidayMail on Facebook, Twitter and social media networks.
“Getting people to sign holiday cards for veterans and soldiers is a great way to spread the spirit of the holidays,” said Dena Howard, director of service to armed forces for the Red Cross. “The look on the soldiers’ and veterans’ faces when they get the cards really makes it all worth it.”
The U.S. Military allows family, friends and corporations to send care packages to servicemembers during the holidays.
Smith added that getting the packages from home was always encouraging and that it’s good to see the students in Moore County giving back.
“It’s very gratifying to see that,” he said. “They genuinely appreciate what our servicesmembers do and they appreciate the sacrifices they make. When you get one of those packages, yes, it’s a taste from home and it’s nice to get that. But more importantly, and I’ve been on the receiving end of that, it’s just great to know that people are thinking about you and appreciate what you are doing.”
You don’t have to wait until the holiday season to show support for the military. The USO allows anyone to send a thank you message to servicemembers throughout the year. Other organizations also send correspondence to soldiers year-round.
One example is Operation Gratitude, which annually sends 150,000-plus care packages filled with snacks, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, plus personal letters of appreciation, to new recruits, Veterans, first responders, Wounded Warriors, care givers and to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed overseas.
The mission of Operation Gratitude — which can be found online easily at <www.operationgratitude.com> — is to lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of the nation’s active duty and Veteran communities and provide volunteer opportunities for all Americans to express their appreciation to members of our Military.
Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than One Million Care Packages.
The U.S. military has roughly 200,000 troops stationed in 144 countries and territories, with another 20,000 sailors and Marines deployed on Navy ships.
With many service members and veterans separated from their families this holiday season due to deployments and hospital stays, these programs empower people to “Give Something That Means Something” by sending a word of thanks and support to the members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families.
Smith said Moore County vice-principal Brad Sanders has now made it safely home from his tour in Afghanistan. Sanders was deployed last year and MCHS faculty and students have saved his parking place in front of the school since he deployed.
Sanders is expected to be back at the school after the holidays.