Staff Sgt. Dale Cherney props himself up on his hospital bed and opens the envelope that’s just been delivered to him. It's from a third-grader named Brian.
“It really feels good that people who don’t know me, care,” says Cherney, who lost both his legs in Iraq and is recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.. “One of my paths has ended and now I have to take another one, and at this moment, such a gesture really helps.”
Cherney is one of thousands of wounded service members who will receive some holiday cheer this year from unknown well-wishers. Through an agreement between the American Red Cross, the Department of Defense, Walter Reed, and Pitney Bowes Inc., cards will be sent to service members in 38 military hospitals nationwide as well as five American Red Cross offices in combat zones overseas including Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany.
Since the Red Cross announced this program in early December, approximately 140,000 cards and notes have poured in from schools, scout troops, companies, and other organizations as well as from individuals, and thousands more are expected. People volunteering their time at Red Cross National Headquarters have their hands full collecting, reviewing, and delivering the holiday greetings.
“A lot of them are from kids and are very funny,” says Sgt. Luis Rodriguez as he flips through one of the greeting cards that he is helping sort. Rodriguez, who received the Purple Heart last year for wounds received during combat in Iraq, is upbeat about the prospect of receiving extra holiday cheer.
“Christmas for me last year was just a small plastic tree that lit up, that my mom had sent,” he says. “These messages, though, will mean a whole lot more to the soldiers.”
How to Send a Greeting
All greeting cards and notes are sorted for appropriate content and repackaged for shipping by Red Cross volunteers. Pitney Bowes, a partner in this program, then helps ship the cards to Red Cross station offices at military hospitals.
Letters must be postmarked no later than December 24 and received no later than December 27. Multiple cards without envelopes may be placed in one mailing envelope or a box that includes a return address. "Care packages” are not part of the program––only cards and notes will be accepted and delivered. The letters must be addressed to the following:
We Support You During Your Recovery!
c/o American Red Cross
P.O. Box 419
Savage, MD 20763-0419
The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.