September 22, 2023
Sarah O'Keefe--Students give hope to soldiers by writing letters and giving gifts this holiday season.

Grateful for the security of home, California Baptist University’s ROTC members decided to support soldiers overseas by sending holiday cheer. By working with Operation Gratitude, a non-profit organization, they were able to do just that in the form of letters, cards and care packages.

“We knew that having something from home would be something that would lift a soldiers’ spirits,” CBU ROTC’s Lt. Micah Washam said. “That is something we have heard from veterans that are in our program.”

According to the Operation Gratitude website, “Operation Gratitude seeks to lift morale and put smiles on faces by sending care packages addressed to individual Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines deployed in harm’s way. Operation Gratitude care packages contain food, hygiene products, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation, all wrapped with good wishes of love and support”.

ROTC members support and encourage their fellow students to take part in this effort.

“If you could just picture being alone in a country with danger all around you and all you’re thinking about is home, to receive a little token from home, I feel, is a really nice gesture,” Cadet Celeste Diamond said. “It really doesn’t take much out of your time to write a card, especially when you don’t even have to mail it. We mail it for you.”

Apart from the cards, care packages were also collected to show support for our deployed soldiers. Things such as socks, DVDs, snacks, travel sized games, homemade gifts, disposable cameras, batteries and playing cards are recommended gifts but prepaid phone cards are amongst the most sought after items by deployed soldiers.

“While there are some means for [soldiers] to be able to call home, if they have a calling card, where the would be able to call on their free time, they are able to connect with family a lot more often,” Lt. Washam said.

Another important gift that will help soldiers with their missions are small toys, such as Beanie Babies and hacky-sacs.

While this may seem like an unlikely necessity, being able to hand out such toys to children helps our soldiers build positive relationships with locals, which can be a difficult task.

“When they open [the care packages] on Dec. 25, they’ll know that it is a thank you from home and a hello from home. That is how it got started, just wanting to be able to say ‘thank you’ and be able to lift a soldiers’ spirit,” Lt. Washam said.

The most important part of this project does not have to do with whether or not a person believes in the war, it is about supporting the brave men and women who are serving and protecting our country. Send- ing a little piece of holiday cheer to a deployed soldier is a way of letting them know they are supported, cared about and prayed for.

ROTC will be accepting donations and providing cards for students and faculty to sign every Friday through Dec. 2 at a table set up outside of the Alumni Dinning Commons. Cards, care packages and individual donations are accepted any time outside of James 476.