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America Supports You: Hallmark Channel Joins DoD Program, Premieres Movie

By Carmen L. Burgess
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2006 – The Hallmark Channel marked its membership with the America Supports You program by teaming up for a holiday card drive and the premiere of its newest movie, scheduled to air Dec. 2.

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Emmy award-winning actor Ed Asner (right) thanks Army Spc. Maxwell Ramsey and his wife, Ayako, for their service to their country in Washington Nov. 28. Ramsey, a member of the 101st Airborne Division, is a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center because of injuries he suffered in Iraq. Photo by Carmen L. Burgess

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In a press conference here yesterday, Hallmark Channel President and Chief Executive Officer Henry Schleiff announced the company’s partnership with Operation Gratitude to send more than 50,000 cards and care packages to troops overseas. He also said the Hallmark Channel planned to premier its new movie “The Christmas Card” at Fort Belvoir, Va., that evening.

“Just as our courageous troops represent America’s best, the Hallmark Channel is proud to participate in the America Supports You program, because it represents the very best of what our network, as well as what we as Americans, stand for,” Schleiff said.

“The Department of Defense is thrilled to welcome Hallmark to the America Supports You team,” said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs and the program’s founder. “The ‘Cards for Troops’ campaign and the debut of the movie ‘The Christmas Card’ not only remind Americans of the importance of sending letters to our troops, in particular around the holidays, but provides them a perfect way to do it.”

ASY is a Department of Defense program recognizing citizens’ support for the military and communicating that support to members of the Armed Forces and their families, at home and abroad. Operation Gratitude is one of the more than 230 ASY member organizations.

Schleiff said the movie “The Christmas Card” is one of the most impressive and powerful stories the network has produced. Emmy-award winner Ed Asner joined actors John Newton (“Desperate Housewives”), Alice Evans (“102 Dalmatians”), and Peter Jason (“Deadwood”) to tell the story of a career soldier in Afghanistan who falls in love with a woman who sent an anonymous Christmas card that buoyed his morale.

Following the production of the movie, the actors and Hallmark employees came up with the idea to join Operation Gratitude in the Cards for Troops campaign by helping package more than 17,000 care packages for troops overseas.

The corporation and grassroots organization also are planning to distribute more than 10,000 network-designed cards at Lincoln Financial Field before the beginning of the 107th Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia Dec. 2. The cards will be collected and sent to men and women stationed abroad.

Asner, who joined other cast members at the National Naval Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., and Walter Reed Army Medical Center here during his visit to Washington, said he has never seen “finer, uncomplaining individuals” than the troops he met at the medical facilities.

“They are phenomenal people,” he said. “I am awestruck at the quality of human beings who are representative of the vast of majority of troops (stationed overseas).”

He compared the real-life experiences of troops to the plot of “The Christmas Card.” “The ripple effects of life are fantastic,” he said. “The movie shows that true love means something. There is hope -- hope for something decent after the storm clouds blow away.”

His theory was proven with the introduction during the press conference of two couples who met in the same manner as the movie characters. Henry and Victoria Brandel, from Muskegon, Mich., met through anonymous cards during the Korean War in 1954 and have been married for 51 years.

Operation Gratitude volunteer Jennifer Parsley, who has written thousands of thank you notes to troops overseas, was surprised with a satellite meeting with her fiancé Marine Sgt. Jeremy Harshman. The couple first met in 2005 when Harshman opened a care package with her card and began corresponding with her.

“It’s amazing the difference that one person can make,” Parsley said. “What are the odds? I wasn’t looking for anyone by sending notes of thanks, but look at the result. If you only reach just one person you can still make a difference in their life.”

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Related Sites:
Operation Gratitude
America Supports You

Click photo for screen-resolution imageActor Ed Asner thanks troops for their service to the United States. Asner was in Washington Nov. 28 for the premiere of the movie "The Christmas Card," about a couple who meets and falls in love because of an anonymous letter. Photo by Carmen L. Burgess  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageHallmark President and Chief Executive Officer Henry Schleiff (left) looks on as Marine Sgt. Jeremy Harshman speaks from overseas via a video link to his fiancée, Operation Gratitude volunteer Jennifer Parsely, in Washington Nov. 28. Harshman first met Parsley through an anonymous card sent in a care package. Photo by Carmen L. Burgess  
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