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Students Write Valentines for Overseas Troops, Families

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2003 – U.S. troops serving overseas in support of the war on global terrorism and military families are getting handmade valentines courtesy of "Operation Heart to Heart."

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Anna Fieweger, a McKenzie School student from Wilmette, Ill., depicted a youth saluting the armed forces in her "Operation Heart to Heart" valentine card. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.
  

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Thousands of cards bearing messages of support fashioned by fourth- and fifth-grade students from across the nation are being distributed to service members and their families.

Driving forces behind "Operation Heart to Heart" are the International Neighbors Club One and the National Association of Elementary School Principals in Alexandria, Va. Also involved are the National Military Family Association, the bipartisan White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the International United Service Organization, and the USO of Metropolitan D.C.

International Neighbors Club One, based here, consists of the spouses of ambassadors, of U.S. government leaders including members of Congress and Supreme Court justices, and of journalists.

Mary Jo Myers, a member of the spousal group and wife of Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said valentines were collected from about 2,500 elementary schools with the help of the school principals association.

The National Military Family Association coordinated delivery of valentines to military families, Myers explained, while the USO is helping to distribute cards to service members overseas.

Myers called the handmade valentines "a real expression" of national support for U.S. service members going in harm's way in support of the war on global terrorism.

Many valentines have already been given to service members and their families, Myers said, noting that officials are hopeful to deliver the rest on or about Valentine's Day.

School principals "were delighted to participate in encouraging children to be patriotic and involved in public service projects such as this," said principals association spokeswoman June Million. She noted 2003 is her organization's second year in a Valentine's Day program for service members.

Valentine's Day became "much more meaningful for the children when they could write to our troops overseas," she said. Schoolchildren nationwide also made banners with messages of support for troops.

"The children realize that service members are keeping our country safe," Million said.

Indeed, Ji-Sun, a Lindbergh School student from Palisades Park, N.J., wrote, "Without brave individuals like yourself, the freedom and rights of the American people and all people around the world would be at risk."

About 15,000 valentine cards in all were collected, according to Donna St. John at USO World Headquarters here. Banners sent from all 50 states are being placed in Army and Air Force exchanges, she said, adding some will also be displayed at the USO center at Fort Hood, Texas.

"It's a wonderful way for children to express their appreciation for our service members," St. John said.

 

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageQuintin McGreevey, a student from McKenzie Elementary School in Wilmette, Ill., sent his valentine card featuring a hand-drawn American flag. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageBrandon Bausch, a Stony Brook Elementary School student in Brewster, Maine, used a lighthouse them in his valentine card. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDipika, a Lindbergh School student from Palisades Park, N.J., sent a "God Bless the USA" valentine card featuring seals of the armed forces. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageWhitney Ponder, a Hokes Bluff Elementary School student from Hokes Bluff, Ala., sent a "God Bless America" valentine card. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe "Operation Heart to Heart" valentine card created by Ji-Sun, a Lindbergh School student from Palisades Park, N.J., features "American Freedom." Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Corps Lance Cpl. Timothy R. Dippon shows off the Operation Heart to Heart valentines he received Feb. 11, 2003, at Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan. Schoolchildren across the nation created some 15,000 valentine cards to send messages of support to service members overseas and to military families. Photo courtesy USO.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarines based on Okinawa, Japan, exhibit Operation Heart to Heart valentines they received Feb. 11, 2003. Schoolchildren across the nation created some 15,000 valentine cards to send messages of support to service members overseas and to military families. Photo courtesy USO.  
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