Right around the time people are writing to Santa, JMU Dukes are writing a different kind of letter — to our troops overseas.
The Community Service Representatives, an affiliate of JMU’s Community Activities Board, set up a table outside the Warren Hall mail room Monday and Tuesday to encourage students to write a valentine for a soldier overseas.
CSR’s mission is to do various service projects around JMU’s campus, such as a clothing drive for the Salvation Army in the residence halls.
The letters are sent through a program based in Georgia called Hearts and Hugs for Soldiers, which has been actively supporting the troops since 2003. This program sends valentines to soldiers every year, and they can be either handmade or purchased, as long as they don’t have glitter and the message on the valentine is positive.
The Hearts and Hugs for Soldiers representatives read every letter sent to them before passing them on to soldiers to make sure the messages aren’t derogatory.
“I think that sometimes we get so caught up in our lives that we forget that some of the things we have are because of the people who are fighting for our freedom,” said Amy Serino, JMU residence life administrator and Eagle Hall director.
The letters can go to any country in which America has troops overseas, including – but not limited to – war areas. The program decides which letters go where based on the number of soldiers in a given location.
“The point of the program is to make soldiers overseas feel like they aren’t forgotten,” said Cate Ambrosich, a CSR member and freshman nursing major.
Serino said she was impressed with the number of students who wrote letters, many of whom were motivated by personal reasons.
“My parents were both in the military, so I know the psychological effects of being overseas or being in combat, because I’ve heard it firsthand from them,” said Nikita Iszard, a sophomore studio art major. “Even something as small as a letter from someone you’ve never met can make a difference in a person’s heart.”
Bruce Wainer, a freshman mathematics and media arts and design-declared double major, wrote a letter because of his influences growing up.
“I’ve been raised near military people my whole life,” Wainer said. “It’s a great community, and they sacrifice so much. Anything we can do to help them is the right thing to do.”
Some students wrote letters because they have family members overseas right now. Emily Twigg, a freshman international affairs major, has an uncle overseas in Kosovo, a region in southeastern Europe.
“It’d be good for the soldiers to realize that even though they are far away from their families, there are still people that care about them,” Twigg said.
This is the first time CSR participated in the program, but it’s hoping to make sending letters to soldiers an annual event.
“We want them to know that we’re still thinking about them,” Serino said. “They’re not anonymous, they’re not invisible and we recognize that they deserve to be told ‘Happy Valentine’s Day.’ ”
Contact Beth Wertz at email@example.com.