Wyoming Girl Scouts pen holiday cards for troops

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — They’re simple messages of thanks, but for the recipients they can be so much more.

“Thanks for fighting in the war,” one said.

“Thanks for fighting for my Girl Scout friends,” said another.

Letters for Veterans

After decorating the front of a Christmas card in Gillette, Wyo., 9-year-old Jordan Fia writes a holiday greeting to an unknown military serviceman or servicewoman overseas. She is writing as part of Holiday Mail for Heros, a program sponsored by the American Red Cross that collects letters and cards for military personal for the holiday season. (AP Photo/Gillette News Record, Eric Ginnard)

A string of finished cards laid on a table in the cafeteria at Prairie Wind Elementary during a recent Saturday afternoon.

Talon Pfeil, 9, smiled as she filled in the outline of a Christmas tree with green marker at a table nearby and put the finishing touches on the words “happy holidays,” during a recent card-making session hosted at her Girl Scout troop’s meeting.

The message means as much to her as it will to the soldier who will open it a month from now.

“We do stuff like this every year because we are trying to make the holidays fun,” she said. “Knowing that it will make somebody smile is exciting for us.”

Talon’s card and more than 100 others created by the girls of Troop 1582 soon will be sent to soldiers deployed across the world and veterans across the country.

They will be part of a program sponsored by the American Red Cross called Holiday Mail for Heroes, and they will be the first ones to be sent from Gillette.

Lenna Hopkins knows what it is like being away from her family during the holidays.

It can be easy for a soldier deployed overseas to forget what she or he is fighting for, she said.

“It kind of reminds you of the little things,” the Army veteran said. “It keeps you going.”

While deployed in Kuwait in the first years of the Iraq War, she can remember when mail would be delivered to her and her fellow soldiers.

“They really do call your name,” she said with a smile.

It never mattered if the mail was from family or a stranger who lives thousands of miles away. It is the message that counts.

And there are soldiers whose names don’t get called, Hopkins said.

That’s where efforts like the Red Cross’ Holiday Mail for Heroes comes in.

Hundreds of thousands of veterans and soldiers will — through the effort of volunteers like the girls of Troop 1582 — get a small reminder that someone, somewhere is thinking of them. Appreciates them.

There are 650 chapters of the Red Cross nationwide, and each one will get at least a few thousand of the holiday cards, according Susan Barnes of the American Red Cross in Gillette.

That means the national organization will need more that 2 million holiday greetings to fulfill its mission.

The Wyoming chapter of the non-profit organization alone will get 10,000 cards to distribute to soldiers and veterans in the state. And 2,500 will come to Barnes to distribute in the five counties she oversees from her Gillette office.

“It is the public sharing their support for our troops, active duty and veterans,” she said. “This is the first year that we will participate in this program locally.”

The participation will include Barnes collecting as many cards as she can from volunteers who make them by Dec. 6. Those cards will be sent to the organization’s national offices, where they will be sorted and resent to those who need them most.

Then, Barnes will get packages of cards in Gillette that will be given to local soldiers and veterans who will be on a list she collects.

“(Overseas) they stand in line for the mail and some never get anything,” she said. “It’s just kind of disheartening. We want to boost their morale, we want to thank them.”

Barnes, who is a veteran herself, knows that even a simple, generic card can mean more than “just a card.”

The messages and pictures that Troop 1582 penned onto simple folded sheets of white printer paper were the first to be created for the program.

They included simple wishes and handmade decorations.

The reason for the troop taking on the challenge is pretty simple, according to troop co-leader Melissa Kaul.

“We are always looking for ways to help our community,” she said.

The group often tries to take on a few service projects around the holidays, including caroling for residents at Pioneer Manor. But as Kaul stood at the end of a table full of girls quietly scribbling away on cards, it was clear that Holiday Mail for Heroes is a little different.

“This kind of makes you smile,” she said.

The cards will be collected by Barnes and sorted before they are shipped.

The messages are just that, messages.

They are not supposed to include any money or gifts of any kind. And they should be generic so that the cards can be sent to any soldier or veteran for Christmas, Barnes said.

It doesn’t really matter to the girls who reads their cards.

Most of them haven’t lived a year of their lives when the country was not at war.

They simply know that someone, somewhere, will not be home for the holidays. Whether they are deployed overseas or they are confined to a bed at the veterans hospital in Sheridan, a handwritten message can make all the difference in the world.

“It’s a nice thing to do,” Talon Pfeil said as she moved onto making her third card of the afternoon.

Information via the Associated Press from: The Gillette (Wyo.) News Record

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