Illinois Students Keep Valentine's Day Tradition Alive
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2006 Leading up to Valentine's Day, a group of sixth graders from Chicago crafted valentines for veterans and servicemembers as a part of a longstanding tradition.
Sixty-five sixth graders from Chicago International Charter School's Bucktown campus joined Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn Jan. 31 for the kickoff of the 2006 Valentines for Vets and Soldiers" program. Quinn, back center, and the students' teacher, Robert Lane, back right, joined the students for a group photo. Debi Rickert, founder of Operation Support Our Troops Illinois chapter, bottom left, lent her support to the project as well. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Beginning in mid-January, 65 students from Chicago International Charter Schools' Bucktown campus each hand-made a greeting as part of the "Valentines for Vets and Soldiers" program headed by the Illinois lieutenant governor's office.
The program's tradition began decades ago with late Chicago advice columnist Ann Landers, who encouraged readers to remember America's servicemembers for Valentine's Day. The student portion of the governor's program started last year with third graders from Central Elementary School in Wilmette, Ill.
"This is an excellent opportunity for all of us to let our veterans and soldiers overseas know that the people of Illinois appreciate their brave efforts ... and that we care," Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said at this year's Jan. 31 kickoff. "Let's show our appreciation by sending hospitalized veterans and (servicemembers) a card or a letter letting them know they are in our thoughts this Valentine's Day."
The appeal has worked, said Eric Schuller, Quinn's senior policy adviser. "I think we're up to about 1,500 (valentines) now," he said today.
Schuller encouraged the public to keep sending valentines greetings. Last year valentines were received well into March, he said.
Operation Support Our Troops Illinois, a troop-support organization started by military mom Debi Rickert, has collected the students' valentines and is accepting greetings from the public to forward to servicemembers around the world, Schuller said. He said the address to send greetings is on the operation's Web site.
Individuals also may send greetings directly to veterans medical facilities for distribution to the troops, Schuller said. Quinn's Operation Home Front Web site contains a list of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics in Illinois.