Try giving hope for the holidays this year

Published 11:27 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

A few weeks ago, a staff member shared with me a story she had read about a Marine serving our country in the Persian Gulf War years ago. It was the Marine’s first Christmas away from his wife and small daughter, and every day leading up to the holiday grew lonelier and lonelier. The thought of spending Christmas eating turkey in the mess hall of a Navy ship with his buddies just wasn’t the same as being in the comfort of his own home filled with the aroma of his wife’s cooking and being with his family. Just days before Christmas, letters to “Any Solider” were delivered throughout the ship. He usually didn’t take the “Any Soldier” letters, since he was lucky enough to receive regular correspondence from his wife and daughter. However, this time he felt compelled to — in the lonely days before Christmas, it was worth receiving all of the words of encouragement he could get. He opened the letter and began to read the words, obviously scribbled from the hand of a young child. Toward the end of the note he read:

“My daddy is a Marine serving over there too. If you see him, tell him hi and that I love him and I miss him.”

The Marine sat down stunned and quiet as he looked down at the bottom of the note. His own daughter had sent the letter.

For many today, the stress of our current economic situation makes it difficult to think of the Christmas season as joyous. Many people are confronting job loss, or facing the realization that their business must downsize because of decreasing revenue. Many people and families are being forced to cut back and there are many who are doing much less this year for Christmas. For military families, the sheer difficulty of separation is often felt the hardest during the holidays.

But stories like the Marine receiving an “Any Soldier” note are reminders of the giving and hopeful nature of the season, and that sometimes the smallest acts of encouragement or kindness can provide hope to someone who needs it the most. This Christmas season, I hope you will take time to reflect on the ways you and your family can show gratitude and encouragement to those who are in need — to remember those who are serving our country, to serve those who are sick and to show gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy as a nation.

Here are some ways you and your family can be involved in spreading encouragement, hope, and gratitude to others.

Send Troops a Holiday Thank You Message. Even a brief note of gratitude can make a world of difference to a soldier serving overseas. collects virtual messages for our troops. To send a message, visit and click on “Thank the Troops.”

Holiday Mail for Heroes. The American Red Cross is sponsoring on online eCard to troops, where your family can add your message of gratitude to a nation-wide greeting card to be given to the troops. To sign the card, visit

Volunteer to Help Veterans. If you want to give your time and talents to support the care of America’s veterans, complete a volunteer application and be contacted by a local Veterans’ Affairs Voluntary Service representative. More information is available at

Volunteer for Operation USO Care Package. The United Service Organizations, Inc. (USO) enlists the support of individuals around the world to support the troops through Operation USO Care Package. Information is available at Families and organizations in the Hampton Roads region can also “adopt a family” through Operation Holiday Spirit Program at the USO of Hampton Roads at

No matter how you and your family celebrate the Christmas holiday, I hope that you will take time to reflect on the hopeful nature of the season and that your Christmas will be a joyous one.

One thing is certain, when individuals willingly take the time out of their busy schedules for the purpose of giving and bringing hope to others, it leaves a profound impact, not only on the individuals involved, but on our communities as whole.