Every year, the American Red Cross Holidays for Heroes campaign helps spread holiday cheer to service members, veterans and military families. As part of the campaign, people across the country create cards and banners with words of thanks and holiday wishes that are collected by the Red Cross and distributed to members of the military community.
Each year, the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties hosts the Holidays for Heroes campaign kickoff at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center on Veterans Day weekend – a perfect time and place for the public to show their thanks for those who serve. Dozens of people attend the event, including Red Cross Youth Club members, Red Cross volunteers, and the general public.
Love, appreciation and respect for our military poured into each line of every card written at this year’s kick-off event. Gratitude and admiration for the willingness of military members “to put their life on the line” was on the lips and in the hearts of every single attendee.
Inspiring and creative youth sat alongside eager adult participants at craft tables filled with card making supplies. Together, attendees assembled holiday cards with unabashed enthusiasm. Participants filled each card with holiday greetings and words of thanks, recognition and encouragement.
“They do a lot for us. This is a way to give back,” said Heidi Thoi, a Red Cross Youth Club member.
Fellow Youth Club member John Finkelman remarked, “When you are 2,000 miles away on a ship, a simple card from home can really make a difference for someone who hasn’t had contact with anyone other than their shipmates.”
For many, signing cards was one small way to give back to those who have given so much in service to their country.
“If we can do a little something, why not?” said event attendee Julie Odlum.
“I am here to contribute, to let our service members know they are appreciated and loved. To let them know that people back home think of them every day,” added Leslie Odlum, Julie’s sister.
Cards and banners made at the event will be delivered to military units, family groups, military and veteran hospitals, and veterans organizations throughout the San Diego region. Some banners may even be delivered to overseas installations and Red Cross stations.
Compassionate care for our military and their families is a historical hallmark of the Red Cross. In 1859, the suffering of wounded soldiers after the Battle of Solferino in Italy inspired Swiss businessman Jean-Henri Dunant to action. This was the humanitarian spark that triggered the birth of the International Red Cross.
After the Civil War, American Clara Barton traveled to Europe. During her trip she had heard of the Swiss-born global Red Cross network. She recognized the tremendous value and need for such an organization in the United States. Upon her return, she campaigned for and founded the American Red Cross in 1881.
Even while Red Cross adapts to meet the changing needs of people they serve, its roots remain the same. Its commitment to the military never wavers. Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces helps members of the military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with and respond to the challenges of military service. Through Service to the Armed Forces, those in the military community have access to 24/7 global emergency communications services, counseling and reconnection workshops, financial assistance and referral services and much more. The Red Cross has served more than 1 million military families since 9/11.
For those who were unable to attend this year’s event, individuals and organizations may still participate in Holidays for Heroes by making cards or banners on their own and mailing or delivering them to the local Red Cross Headquarters, located at 3950 Calle Fortunada, San Diego, CA 92123.
Holidays for Heroes cards and banners will be accepted through Monday, December 3, 2018.
- Cards can be purchased or homemade.
- Please ensure all cards are signed, using your first name only, and do not include envelopes.
- Use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member,” “Dear Veteran,” or “Dear Military Family” and write your best wishes for the holidays and a heartfelt thank you for their service.
- Do not include email or home addresses on the cards - the program is not meant to foster pen pal relationships.
- Please refrain from using cards with glitter or using loose glitter as decoration- it can aggravate health issues of ill and injured warriors.
- Banners should be sturdy enough to be shipped overseas and large enough to be viewed when hung on a wall.
- Your banner should include a large, main message to either Veterans or service members, and then be filled up with individual messages of best wishes from your members or employees – the more messages, the better!
- Banners will be rolled up for shipment, so please, no laminated banners.
For more information about Red Cross services for members of the military, visit redcross.org/military.