One William & Mary student group is working to make sure that military members deployed overseas know they are appreciated and remembered this holiday season.
The William & Mary Coast Guard Auxiliary University Program collected signatures from students, faculty and staff last week to fill nearly 80 hand-drawn cards, which will be sent to deployed troops as part of Operation Gratitude.
“For the soldiers overseas, whatever capacity they may be in, something as small as a letter saying 'thank you' or 'happy holidays' reminds them why they are doing the job they’re doing,” said Christopher Weber ’15, public affairs officer for the group. “And if you can change just one person’s outlook, you can potentially change their entire troop, their entire regiment, their entire group and really create a profound difference in the mentality of a part of the U.S. military.”
Operation Gratitude is a nationwide effort that sends care packages to deployed military members. Since the organization’s inception in 2003, more than 815,000 packages have been sent.
Although the operation is a year-round effort, the W&M students decided to focus on the holiday season and set up shop in the Sadler Center last week to collect the signatures. The messages that people wrote in the hand-drawn cards ranged from simple words of gratitude to more personal words of support. Those often came from students with family members who are in the military, said Weber.
The W&M group, which is part of the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Flotilla 67 in Williamsburg, got the idea for the drive from the Piedmont, N.C., Coast Guard Auxiliary University Program unit, which includes students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The two groups decided to turn the effort into a friendly competition to encourage their respective members to gather as many greetings as possible. At last count, William & Mary was winning the wager, with 77 cards collected over Piedmont’s 52, said Weber.
In addition to the cards collected on campus, the W&M group is also receiving a package of cards from Courtland Elementary School in Spotsylvania, Va. All of the cards will be sent to Operation Gratitude on Dec. 7.
“My hope is that service members will open these cards and really understand that there are people back home who have a deep care for what they are doing, that we understand their service and we understand the effort they are putting forth,” said Weber.
“My hope is that when they read these cards, they’re just reminded of the reason that they are out there protecting this country.”