Veteran’s Day in Washington, D.C., brings with it dawn-to-dusk traditions honoring our troops.
Arlington National Cemetery fills with people visiting the graves of the fallen—many are children. Wreaths are laid before crowds filled with elderly veterans, recently shined medals pinned to their shirts—many push a comrade in a wheelchair. Thousands surround the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial to read the names on The Wall and to listen to the tributes—many military women, humbled by the recognition, fight back tears.
Another Washington, D.C. Veteran’s Day tradition is the start of the American Red Cross/Pitney Bowes Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign. This year, the program will collect more than a million holiday cards from U.S. citizens across the nation. The cards will be screened, sorted and respectfully delivered into the hands of wounded warriors, servicemembers, military families and veterans.
Pride swelled in the chests of those who attended the kick-off press conference, held in the famous Board of Governor’s Hall at American Red Cross National Headquarters. Senior officials from the Red Cross, Pitney Bowes, the United States Marine Corps, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the United States Army highlighted how the support of average Americans can lift the spirits of men and women who serve our country.
Pride turned to inspiration when 15-year-old Mathew Oclander moved to the microphone. Mathew told the crowd of the comfort he drew from sorting cards for servicemembers last year, when his father, Lt. Colonel David Oclander, was stationed in Iraq. Proudly wearing his Boy Scout uniform, Mathew told of falling asleep after a day of sorting, imagining those cards he had touched being trucked to the airport, flown to Baghdad, trucked to military installations and finally handed, one by one, to servicemembers like his Dad who could not be at home for the Holidays.
Lt. Colonel Oclander, now home safely, stood beside his son. He said none of last year’s cards got to him, personally, but some of the cards did get to soldiers in his Brigade, and each was a wonderful gift. The Colonel observed that the emotional impact of the cards cannot be measured in any way. Each card sends a message that is the ultimate honor of military service—to know you are thought of in high regard by the citizens you are serving.
Hundreds of visitors to the National Mall stopped by a Red Cross tent on Veteran’s Day to write words of encouragement and appreciation to “any soldier.” Messages were sent from a father whose son was stationed in Afghanistan, from an elementary school girl who had just visited Arlington National Cemetery, from a World War II veteran who wore his Army hat, from a teenager who said he was about to register for the draft, and from countless others, each wanting to say “thank you for serving.”
When you are sending your holiday cards this year, don’t forget to send an extra card for our Service Heroes. The address to which cards should be sent, card guidelines and a compelling video about the program are on the Holiday Mail for Heroes Web page.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.