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Illinois Upholds Longstanding Valentine's Day Tradition

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2005 – Following some sound advice, 28 third-graders from Central Elementary School in Wilmette, Ill., have cut, colored and pasted "Valentines for Vets and Soldiers."

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Third-graders from Central Elementary School in Wilmette, Ill., joined Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn in kicking off what is officially being called "Valentines for Vets and Soldiers."The class got involved when their teacher Lisa Garcia, to Quinn's left, inquired with his office for a project her students could do to support servicemembers. With valentines in hand, the class officially kicked off the project Jan. 26, by encouraging students across the state to join them in their efforts. Courtesy photo
  

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The students' teacher, Linda Garcia, got the ball rolling before Christmas. She contacted Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn's office in search of a project her class could do that would support the nation's men and women in uniform.

His office was looking to do something more special than usual for Valentine's Day this year, said Eric Schuller, senior policy adviser to the lieutenant governor.

The desire to expand the program to include deployed servicemembers in addition to veterans seemed to fit with the class's desire to do something special for servicemembers, Schuller said. So the third-graders agreed to become the "kick- off" class.

On Jan. 26, wearing red "Valentines for Vets" T-shirts that they had designed, the third-graders joined Quinn in encouraging school children across the state to remember servicemembers overseas and hospitalized veterans with a valentine.

"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, are thinking of them and that we care," Quinn said. "Let's show our appreciation by sending hospitalized vets and servicemen and women a card or a letter letting them know they are in our thoughts this Valentine's Day."

Also present for the kickoff of the program to support the troops was Debi Rickert.

Rickert is a military mom who started the Illinois chapter of Operation Support Our Troops. OST was started by military mothers across the country to show gratitude to the troops overseas.

Within a day of the kickoff, Schuller said, the lieutenant governor's office had received inquiries from no fewer than five schools interested in sending Valentines to Vets.

Valentines for Vets was started by late Chicago advice columnist Ann Landers. She used her column to encourage her readers to remember veterans at Valentine's Day.

Those who are interested in sending valentines to hospitalized veterans can go to Quinn's Web site for a list of the hospitals and their addresses. On the Operation Home Front Web site there is a link to the address for those wanting to send valentines to servicemembers overseas. Operation Support Our Troops members will collect the valentines mailed to that address and make sure they get distributed to the troops.

Schuller said the cutoff for getting valentines in is Feb. 14.

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Related Sites:
Operation Support Our Troops
Operation Home Front

Click photo for screen-resolution imageIllinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn encourages students across the state to join the third-graders from Central Elementary School in Wilmette in sending valentine greetings to servicemembers overseas and hospitalized veterans. Debbie Rickert, far left, of Operation Support Our Troops, and Joanne Binder, center, of Operation Home Front joined the lieutenant governor and Central Elementary students Carolyn Kaiser, bottom left and Susannah Davis in kicking off the "Valentines for Vets and Soldiers" program. Courtesy photo  
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