Alaska kids, volunteers send thousands of cards to troops overseas
A fresh shipment of holiday cheer is on its way to U.S. troops stationed overseas via the sentiments of Alaska’s schoolchildren and the work of some stateside supporters.
An all-volunteer effort organized by the Alaska Veterans Museum, this year’s project generated about 10,000 cards and letters from students at 34 schools in the Anchorage School District. The cards are written by kids just in advance of the holidays and distributed by the national Friends of Our Troops organization.
TSgt Jennifer Shoup coordinates the program for the museum. An airman stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, TSgt Shoup said the words of encouragement and cheer are touching.
“Reading the cards is really my favorite part,” said TSgt Jennifer Shoup, an airman stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson who coordinates the program for the museum.
Shoup was part of a group of about a dozen volunteers who met at the Eagle River home of Pheng Scott on Saturday, Nov. 18 to read the cards, which are screened before being sent to troops stationed around the world. She said the local program has been helping distribute letters to the troops for the past 17 years. Shoup took over the project last year with the help of museum executive director Suellen Wright Novak.
Shoup said a group of civilian and active duty volunteers spent about eight hours Saturday reading the nearly 10,000 cards and preparing them for shipment.
“When we took it over last year Suellen and I did not realize what we were getting into,” she joked.
Sending letters to troops is a big part of the Anchorage-based museum’s mission — according to its website, the nonprofit distributes more letters to troops than “any other small organization in the United States.”
Shoup said blank cards were distributed to local schools earlier this winter, with local elementary and middle school students providing the bulk of the messages. Shoup said the notes ranged from simple to funny to profound. One middle-schooler wrote a letter of support for the troops that included several inspiring quotes.
“Those of us who have not served will never fully understand that the sacrifices you’ve made both in times of peace and times of war,” begins the letter, which quotes from a number of passages and poems in various media sources.
Some students wrote about their support for the troops, while others took a different approach — like correcting misconceptions about the 49th state.
“People think we live in igloos, ride polar bears to school and that it snows all year,” wrote one student. “Well, those are myths, we live in houses, walk or drive to school and yes we have summer, it usually gets up to 75 degrees here.”
The Gruening Middle School student concluded the letter by thanking the unnamed soldier on the other end of the letter for his service.
“Thank you for all your hard work,” the student wrote, signing the letter with a drawing of three Forget-Me-Nots, the Alaska state flower.
Shoup said some of the letters “get you in the feels.”
“They are very, very heartfelt,” she said.
Shoup said she’s heard stories of the positive impact such letters have on servicemen and women deployed far from home.
“It resonates,” she said.