Military troops around the world received hundreds of holiday greetings from Schenectady thanks to a local Disabled American Veterans chapter and its auxiliary unit.
Disabled Americans Veterans Chapter 88 and its auxiliary unit collected, signed and wrote personal messages in 751 holiday cards. In 2010, the group sent out 543 cards — more than any other DAV chapter in New York State, said Ben Wiser, executive director of Friends of our Troops. Numbers have yet to be tallied to determine if the group broke another record in 2011.
Friends of our Troops mails cards to military members around the world as part of the Fan Mail for the Troops campaign.
Each fall, holiday cards are sent from across the country to the organization’s headquarters in Fayetteville, N.C. Typically, they receive around 250,000 of them, Wiser said.
With the help of volunteers, Wiser mixes the mountains of cards together and sends them out to military bases around the globe at Christmastime. Some of them are saved for a Christmas in July mailing.
DAV Chapter 88 and its auxiliary collected holiday card donations for that effort throughout the year. To up the number of cards they sent to the troops in 2011, they enlisted the help of residents of the Edison Apartments in Rotterdam to help them write personal messages in each one.
Patty Montone of Schenectady, a member of DAV Chapter 88’s auxiliary unit, has led the group’s holiday card-writing initiative for four years. She personally reads every message that’s written in the cards before sealing the envelopes and shipping them off.
“I probably put in 40, 50 hours on it,” she estimated.
From penning personal messages to shipping the huge box full of cards, the whole process takes about two weeks, she estimated.
Montone sent her DAV group’s greeting cards to the Friends of our Troops headquarters in North Carolina the day before Thanksgiving, along with a $142 donation to cover the postage it will take to send the cards from there to military bases around the world.
For Montone, the whole process is a labor of love.
“I was brought up in the Disabled American Veterans. My parents were both commanders. They’re now deceased. This has been an organization that I’ve loved for many years,” she said.
Every once in a while, the group will receive correspondence from a military member who has received a card from them.
“After they leave the service they kind of go on their merry way and so they were thankful for what we did at that time, but then you don’t hear from them afterwards. But that’s OK, we’re glad that they’re home safe and that we were able to cheer them up when they were overseas,” Montone said.
The troops don’t just hear from DAV Chapter 88 and its auxiliary at Christmastime. The group also sends coupons to military bases monthly. “You can send them up until six months after the expiration date,” Montone noted. “Sometimes I send them to Turkey, sometimes I send them to Greece, but every month we send a box to a different military base. They can use them in the commissary,” she explained.
At Halloween, the group also sends candy to the troops stationed in Afghanistan.