Operation Gratitude gives Central students chance to correspond with members of the U.S. military


Jacek Kulak, Correspondent

In honor of Veterans’ Day, Rotary Hill was covered in flags.

Laura Starke, Communication Arts teacher and Junior Statesmen of America (JSA) sponsor at Naperville Central, has arranged for the mailing of approximately 250 notes to active military personnel and veterans. Students had a choice to write to a new recruit, a deployed soldier or a veteran.

“[We] wanted to make Veterans Day meaningful to everyone,” Starke said. “We wanted everyone to have an opportunity to be able to be exposed and to be a part of if they wanted to be.”

Starke ran the letter-writing campaign through both JSA and various Communication Arts classrooms. JSA set up in the in the cafeteria and walked around, inviting people to write notes on pieces of colored paper they provided.

“Because so many people don’t get to go to the Veterans Day assembly, I think it’s really nice to show [our] gratitude for veterans,” said Anson Tong, JSA’s Director of Publicity. “They do so much for us; we should at least appreciate them for one day of the year.”

The notes will be sent through care packages to different branches of the military. Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit organization, coordinates the delivery of the care packages.

“I chose [Operation Gratitude] because they had a pretty established letter-writing campaign—specifically with the instructions and mailing,” Starke said.

JSA also talked to the staff members who had served in the military, and asked them to lend their uniforms or medals. English Teacher Richard Bain’s uniform was in display at the main entrance. Bain, who served in the military from 2004 to 2011, explained how it felt to be on the receiving end of a care package.

“It’s nice to know that people recognize you’re there,” Bain said. “The people who are deployed often feel forgotten. Seeing mail call happen is like seeing grown men act like children on Christmas morning. I think the most important thing [about the packages] was the reassurance that things were still okay at home.”