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Hearts for Heroes makes Valentine's Day memorable

by Senior Airman Robin Drake
Thunderbolt staff writer

A sample of the valentine's cards and letters collected by the United States Postal Service is seen here. The cards were created by students from more than 42 schools throughout the Tampa Bay area for the Hearts for Heroes Program.

Photo by Senior Airman Robin Drake

If your sweetheart is a servicemember in the 6th Air Mobility Wing, don't be jealous if he comes home with a special valentine this year.

The United States Postal Service Hearts for Heroes program and students from Dunbar Elementary School will present more than 6,000 Valentine's Day cards and letters today to servicemembers assigned to MacDill.

The event will take place at the Benjamin O. Davis Park and Pavilion at 1 p.m. and anyone who wishes to attend may do so. Students and teachers will present the valentine's to unit representatives from MacDill.

Students from 42 elementary, middle and high schools from Tampa and other surrounding communities volunteered to participate in the program this year, said Mrs. Bridget Robertson, customer relations coordinator, Tampa Post Office.

Letters were sent to the schools inviting them to take part in creating valentine's to be distributed at MacDill and mailed to deployed members overseas.

"The kids just get so into it and they really love it," said Mrs. Robertson. "And it gives them the opportunity to say thank you in their own special way.

More than 2,500 valentines have been mailed out to the troops overseas and there are more than 6,000 to hand out at MacDill, said Mrs. Robertson."

The program was created in January 2002 with 15 schools participating and has grown each year since then, said Mrs. Robertson.

All of the cards and letters contain pictures and words that express patronage, encouragement and support for servicemembers.

Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, mail addressed "to any servicemember" was authorized to be forwarded overseas, said Mrs. Robertson. But due to the changes in procedure, mail may not be sent unless it has the specific servicemember's name, rank and address.

With this program a USPS representative personally collects the valentine's from each teacher whose class participates and hand carries them back to the collection point. This eliminates the risk of the contents being tampered with.

Each valentine is then carefully screened for content and contraband, said Mrs. Robertson, adding, the cards are then either mailed overseas or set aside for the people at MacDill.

"So many people are away from their loved ones for this holiday and this is just our way to show them a lot of love during this time," said Mrs. Robertson.




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