11/18/12 — Community to sign cards for troops

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Community to sign cards for troops

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 18, 2012 1:50 AM

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A pile of Christmas cards signed by service members at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base sits atop a table while Master Sgt. Jamee Clark signs her holiday wish during a card campaign held on base by the American Red Cross.

The messages were simple -- "Thank you for your service;" "We love you;" "God bless."

But members of the organization that created the Holiday Mail for Heroes program hope that when the men and women those common phrases will be read by come across the cards those words are written in, they will find a deeper meaning within -- that they have not been forgotten by a nation grateful for their continued service; that even though they might be thousands of miles away, they are not alone.

Members of the 916th Air Refueling Wing hosted a kickoff ceremony for the effort Friday morning on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

And Red Cross Executive Director Chuck Waller, one of the people responsible for the campaign, said he could not think of a better setting.

"What a great place to do it," he said. "It the least we can do for those who have given so much. We are truly, truly grateful for their commitment and their sacrifices."

Thousands of holiday cards have already been signed and many more are expected to flood into the local Red Cross headquarters by the Dec. 7 deadline.

And once they are received, some will be distributed to active duty service members and others to veterans and wounded warriors.

916th Commander Col. Gregory Gilmour said he understands just how much a simple well-wish can mean to a deployed troop -- particularly at this time of year.

He knows from experience what it is like to be away from loved ones during the holiday season.

"It really is tough," he said. "You're missing all those (things) that happen this time of year. I know the troops will really enjoy it."

His wife, Kathy, hopes so.

To her, they are more than simple messages tucked inside a holiday card. They are "a little hug from home" -- one she hopes will boost the morale of those who are now in the situation her husband once was.

Those who wish to participate in the "Holiday Mail for Heroes" campaign can stop by the Red Cross headquarters on George Street to sign a card or, if they want to provide their own, can simply drop completed ones off at the site.

Gilmour hopes the Wayne County community will shatter the 10,000-card goal.

"It's fantastic. It's really great that they're doing this," he said. "It really means a lot -- being deployed and getting something from home."