About a week ago I got word that the total volume of cards received for this year’s Holiday Mail for Heroes
campaign was more than 1.2 million. All I could think of was: Whooaaa! We had been shooting for a million – but clearly Americans stepped up in a big way – bigger than we had imagined.
Holiday Mail was established five years ago by the American Red Cross
in partnership with Pitney Bowes
. The program allows Americans to send cards of support, thanks and season’s greetings to the brave members of our Armed Forces serving around the world, many of who are in harm’s way or have been injured, so that they have a little “touch of home” during the holidays. Following 9/11, regulations changed within the military about how its members could receive mail. That’s how Pitney Bowes originally got involved. We have the ability to properly screen mail.
Each year cards are sent to a PO Box where they are screened by Pitney Bowes technology and individually read by American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes volunteers to ensure they are safe and appropriate for delivery. The cards are then sent out to American Red Cross chapters in the US and abroad to be hand-delivered to military installations, hospitals caring for injured soldiers, veterans and their families. It is quite an organized process and one that is carried out with heart, compassion and enthusiasm by everyone involved.
It was only when I saw brief video footage of soldiers receiving cards, dressed in camouflage, yards away from what I suspect was imminent danger, did I understand the magnitude of what I was working on. To myself I thought:
Lucky me, I’m not there.
Lucky me, I have them to protect me.
Lucky me, I get to know of this – and do something.
Lucky me, I get to help, even if it’s just a little.
So, when I learned of the staggering number of cards that came through, from all over the country, from all types of people, all with the same intention- to help, if only just a little. I felt enormous pride in being a part of making it happen. Because what could be better than delivering more than a million heartfelt wishes of support to our soldiers around the world?
There is something. Just a few days ago, I received an email from a friend and Pitney Bowes colleague Sandra Long, with the subject line: Happiness in Kansas!! and an attachment. The photo was of my friend standing closely beside her son who had just returned from serving in Afghanistan along with her husband and daughter. A family joyfully reunited; a son safely home. It doesn’t get any better than that.
That’s what would be better. The enormous outpouring of support shown by the American public this season was nothing short of exceptional. When the sixth year of Holiday Mail for Heroes comes around next fall, I am confident America will step up again. I know I will. But while Americans tend to aspire to topping their achievements, whatever they be, I’m sure we would all be happiest if many more soldiers returned home, as my friend’s son did, and the number of US military deployed dropped considerably. Whatever happens, the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes will be there.