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Sharon Foster, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2009 –
A troop-support organization is gearing up for the early part of the new year, collecting Valentine, Easter and St. Patrick Day cards and gifts for servicemembers and the health professionals who take care of them.
“The response is tremendous during [the Christmas holiday] for sending cards and gifts, but the need is just as great when this holiday ends,” said Alessandra Kellermann, founder of Homefront Hugs USA, the group that manages the Operation Healing Angel program. “We run 365 days of the year. It’s important for us to keep in contact with the troops throughout the year. Cards are a wonderful way to say thanks to those who sacrifice so much every day.”
Operation Healing Angel’s mission is not only to provide support to servicemembers at home and abroad, but also to reach out to health care professionals who take care of them when they are injured, Kellermann said. The program’s volunteers collect items such as cards, pens, travel games, mini flashlights, alarm clocks and handkerchiefs for health care professionals in hospitals overseas and at home. Care packages for servicemembers include cards, U-shaped neck pillows, CDs and DVDs.
“What I love about this mission is that we include the caregivers -- the medical personnel too often forgotten,” Kellermann said. “I once worked in an emergency room and intensive care unit, so I know the stress and toll of dealing with traumatic events and the need for a morale boost whenever possible. The coffee, blankets and soft music is received with much gratitude and appreciation.”
Air Force Senior Airman Mackenzie Schroeder took time to express her gratitude upon completion of her tour in a military hospital in Iraq. “As my tour comes to an end,” she wrote, “I just want to extend another thank you for all the care packages that you have sent to me, my coworkers and the men and women who come through this [hospital] daily. Your gifts, thoughts and prayers are much appreciated from everyone.”
A medic stationed in Germany wrote to Kellermann three years ago, requesting support for a soldier he was treating. She knew then that she wanted to do something to uplift the spirits of both the medic and the injured soldier.
“The word spread quickly as we began to send cards, accompanied by care packages filled with blankets, cozy socks, spiritual books, bathrobes - anything the medical personnel or chaplains could give to these wounded troops,” she said.
The majority of Operation Healing Angel cards and care packages go to Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals in Washington, D.C., Florida and Hawaii. Packages also go to military hospitals in Germany, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The need is great, as it reminds our heroes who care for our wounded and those injured that during their struggle to get better, they are never forgotten and someone is thinking of them, praying and hoping they know we are grateful for their sacrifices,” Kellermann said.