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Kentucky K-12 students send Valentine’s Day Cards to KY Troops and Veterans

On Valentine’s Day, more than 6,600 military troops and Veterans will receive much deserved home-made cards and letters with messages written from the heart by kindergarten through 12th grade students in 10 Kentucky school districts.

This effort is part of an annual initiative called Hearts from Home that is coordinated by the ATEAM/ Kentucky Americorps program.

Hearts from Home is a community service project that involves:

  • 1. Volunteers collecting names and addresses of KY military troops and Veterans from citizens in communities served by the ATEAM;
  • 2. K-12th grade students making cards or writing letters to send to more than 6,600 KY military troops and Veterans on the mailing list;
  • 3. Collecting the Valentine’s cards from participating schools in the 10 school districts;
  • 4. Sorting, packaging, labeling, stamping and mailing the cards and letters so troops and Veterans can receive them on or before Valentine’s Day.

“It gets lonely when you are overseas fighting,” said Shannon Bailes, director of ATEAM/Americorps. “Hearts from Home lets our heroes know that they are not forgotten.”

Bailes said that once the word got out about Hearts from Home, the ATEAM collected approximately 1,074 names of soldiers and 379 names of Veterans in the communities that are supported by the ATEAM. This year, the ATEAM worked with the Bluegrass Military Affairs Coalitions (BMAC), headquartered in Lexington, KY, to develop a list of KY Military Family Readiness Units and Veterans medical centers and nursing homes to distribute Valentine’s.

AmeriCorps, sometimes called the domestic Peace Corps, engages more than 40,000 Americans in intensive, results-driven service each year, teaching children to read, making neighborhoods safer, building affordable homes and responding to natural disasters through more than 1,000 projects.

Currently there are 10 AmeriCorps Teams in Kentucky including the ATEAM. Members of the ATEAM serve elementary through high school students in partnership with supportive schools and involved communities. It provides tutoring and mentoring assistance to aid in the prevention of student dropouts and to support post-secondary education and workforce readiness. As part of the mentoring process, the ATEAM involves students in community service projects such as Hearts from Home.

The following Kentucky school districts in the ATEAM communities participated in Hearts from Home: Barren, Crittenden, Hancock, Marshall, Pulaski, Garrard, Glasgow Independent, Somerset Independent and Caverna Independent Schools and Webster County Schools.

“Hearts from Home is a project that shows soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines serving away from home and family that the people in the United States support of them and care about them,” said Tom Baker, chairman of BMAC. “Receiving a Valentine from an unknown American back home in Kentucky has a positive effect on troop morale regardless whether they are serving overseas or state-side. The same is true for KY Veterans who are in hospitals and homes. Troops and Veterans spirits are lifted knowing that at least one other American recognizes the military service he or she provided to our nation.”

BMAC is a non-sectarian, non-partisan civilian organization of patriotic individuals, businesses, government, military service organizations, Veterans support organizations and all branches of the military. Its purpose is to promote the awareness of our military and educate the public about the Armed Forces of the United States of America, their state of readiness, contributions to our safety and preservation of our freedom. Its services provide support and benefits to military members, Veterans and their families. As a coalition, BMAC assists organizations like the ATEAM to facilitate and implement programs such as the Hearts from Home.

In addition to putting some cheer in the hearts of troops and Veterans, Hearts from Home benefits the many students who made cards and wrote letters. The initiative provided teachers and mentors with an opportunity to teach school children what it is like to serve in the military. It helps them gain a greater appreciation for our troops who volunteer to protect democracy and freedom.

“Many of us take for granted spending each Valentine’s Day surrounded by family and friends while our troops are in harm’s way fighting so we can be safe here at home,” Bailes said. “We have heard from troops that they truly appreciate these Valentines.”

With more than 66,000 troops still remaining in Afghanistan and many more serving in nearly 150 countries in 7 continents, and many more serving stateside, there will always be a need for cards, letters and packages.

Letters we received

Ms. Morgan,

I am the Flight Surgeon and Commander of the 405th Expeditionary Medical Flight deployed to an undisclosed location in the Middle East. I wanted to let you know that I received the Valentine’s Day cards from the students at Hopkins Elementary. It was wonderful and uplifting to read all their wonderful words of appreciation and support for me, the folks in my flight, and all the young men and women in the US Armed Forces that are deployed here with me right now. Most of us have been here through all of the major holidays, and sometimes it takes great effort to remember what we are here for and why we would ever volunteer for a job that pulls us away from our homes and families for months at a time. So, I want to express my appreciation and give a very heartfelt, “Thank you,” to the students at Hopkins Elementary for sharing their time, talents, and consideration and for reminding us why we come to work every day. Thank you!

I kept a card from a young gentleman named Logan Watson, and the rest I took over to our LRC. It is sort of our version of a library… we can go in and check out books and movies. The ladies at the front desk have been handing the cards out to everyone who comes in today to make sure they are shared with as many airmen and soldiers as possible! I have also attached a picture of my flight with our ambulances in front of one of our C-17 planes.

Very Thankfully,

Capt, USAF, MC, FS

Today 2/13/2013 I walked away from my mail box a very happy man “after more than 40 years I have yet to be welcomed home from my service in Viet Nam, other than by the brothers I fought with”.

Trust me this was the day I got a welcome home. My two children both attended the Camp Dick Robinson school & I now have a great grandson attending, how great is that!!!!

Please for me pass on too both schools how happy I was to get the great work and words from the class.

Camp Dick Robinson Mrs. Lanigan Teacher, Robert & Kayler Students. You all 3 have made my day, it was a pleasure to serve for you, thanks and have a great day.

Lancaster Elementary Mrs. Yantz Teacher, Skylar Student/ Mrs. Hurt Teacher, Taylor Student/ Mrs. Pardye Teacher, Natalie Student. It has been great getting your cards today & just in time for Valentines day, thank you all so much.

Larry R. Napier
First Sergeant
U.S. Marine Corps (RET)
Semper Fidelis

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