Op/Ed

Thank you for your service

HOPE E. TREMBLAY

Last week reporter Peter Currier wrote two stories on a candy collection; one letting readers know the Westfield Fire Department would be collecting leftover Halloween candy to send to troops, and another with the amount of candy they collected.

By press time Nov. 5, the WFD had collected over 900 pounds of candy, and by the time the story hit homes, they had another 300 pounds.

That’s 1,200 pounds of candy!

The candy will be sent to troops through Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends individual care packages to soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen, as well as their children, first responders, new recruits, veterans, wounded heroes and their care givers.

Firefighter Travis Lucia, an Army veteran, brought the program to Westfield because he recalled how receiving care packages throughout his year-long deployment in Afghanistan made him feel. In addition to candy, the packages typically include personal care items and often, a letter.

I have never served in our military and I cannot begin to imagine how it must feel to be far away from home, from family, from friends, and receive that letter from someone who doesn’t even know you, but cares.

How amazing it must feel to have something tangible to read and re-read (and let’s face it, the chocolate is good, too) to remind them what they are fighting for – who they are fighting for.

I am inspired to write a letter or send holiday cards to troops keeping me and my family safe. Whether it ends up in the hands of a career military major spending the holidays away from home for the 10th year, or a young person on their first deployment, I hope it brings them a smile and that the knowledge that their sacrifice is appreciated.

Not many of my relatives enlisted. I have a cousin who made the U.S. Navy his career. He and his wife – also in the Navy – live in Virginia and continue to serve. My grandfather, Bill Murray, was also a sailor. Growing up, I recall seeing photos of him in his uniform and I thought about how different he looked as a young man. He was much thinner than the Poppa I knew, and he had not yet broken his nose, which I had always known to be a bit flat. But his deep brown eyes were the same, and I could see he was proud to have served.

It wasn’t until his death in 1999 that we discovered how important that service was to him – we found out he was actually a year younger than we all thought because he had lied about his age to enlist sooner.

At this time of year, teachers often assign their students the task of interviewing their veteran or currently serving military family members. When that assignment was given to my son three years ago, we had no one in the family to interview. So, John Velis stepped in.

I was so appreciative that he took time in his busy schedule as a state representative, as well as an active member of the U.S. Army Reserves, to sit down with my son and daughter to talk about the importance of serving our country in terms that my then-first and second graders could understand.

I am thankful for his service, my grandfather’s service and my cousin Brian’s service. I am grateful to all who have and continue to serve in our military and hope that every day you are honored for your sacrifices.

Tell us about your military heroes – send me a note to [email protected]

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