Valentine Cards For Marines
Deadline: January 20th
Onslow County Parks & Recreation Dept.
1244 Onslow Pines Road
As the busy, bustling holiday season comes to an end, it’s common for the pace at which we ship care packages to our troops (those stationed stateside and abroad) to approach a more measured and relaxed speed. But when the attention drops off, it can despondently leave a lot of servicemen and women feeling forgotten, stuck and depressed. It’s a sad yet undeniable truth many of us all too often and unintentionally push aside. However, Onslow County Parks and Recreation has been teaming up with The Single Marine Program (SMP), located on the New River Air Station in Jacksonville, NC, to make sure feelings of dejection between major holidays diminish faster than the champagne on New Year’s Eve.
Without skipping a (heart)beat, thanks to schools ranging in grades from K through 12 across neighboring counties, such as Duplin, Sampson and New Hanover, the results have been nothing shy of astounding. This year the New River Air Station’s SMP and Onslow Parks and Recreation hope to recruit more warm and loving thoughts from residents and schools across our port city of Wilmington just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Housed in the Holmes Memorial Enlisted Club at New River Air Station (separate from the Camp Lejeune Center) and open seven days a week, 365 days a year, the Single Marine Program is meant to be a home away from home for Marines. They focus on three factors: leisure, community involvement and quality of life. It is their goal year-round to provide opportunities for those serving our country to integrate and mingle within society. Likewise, it gives community members a chance to partake and enrich Marines’ lives as well.
“The biggest misconception we hear about the Single Marine Program is that, in order to participate, one must be single,” Kelly Andrews, coordinator of SMP which leads the charge for Valentine’s Day cards, says. “That’s not the case. We are not policing if you’re wearing a wedding ring when you go bowling with us during one of our events.”
A Marine spouse of seven years, Andrews knows how important it is to keep morale high during times of hushed activity. Be it the Toys for Tots, Adopt-a-School, beach cleanups or visits to veteran homes, Andrews states with certainty and pride that 95 percent of the time SMP is able to accommodate anything a Marine is interested in doing. “We want authorized MCCS patrons (anyone within the military community) to give us a try, get involved and come to our club,” she ensures.
Developed with support in mind for single Marines—a large percentage of the Marine Corps—SMP is truly an invaluable resource for those just enlisted or re-enlisting multiple times. For a little more than a decade, Carol Trott, assistant recreation supervisor to Onslow County Parks and Recreation Department, has been teaming up with SMP to ensure the delivery of thousands of Valentine cards to those overseas.
“We’ve been supporting this idea since 2001,” she says. “What better way to show our troops how much they are appreciated and loved than on Valentine’s Day? Everyone gets involved, and it’s great to see. The Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and other young groups mail or hand deliver their Valentines to our office,” Trott, a daughter of a WWII veteran and Jacksonville native, says. “I grew up with the military. They are such a big part of our community, even outside of Jacksonville. This event is for our deployed troops to let them know we still think of them and we love them, too. It would be wonderful to have schools in Wilmington partake.”
All age groups are invited to design and personalize a card to send. All cards must be no larger than 8.5 x 11, though any decorating material—such as cotton-balls, crayons, markers, glitter and felt—is allowed. The card itself must be made of paper, and food, such as candy or chocolates, can’t be attached. While in the past many have placed their names and home addresses on the back of the cards—and several received responses from Marines—this year, if a child is writing a Valentine from school, they should place their school’s name, principal’s name and school address on the back instead of personal contacts.
“I want readers to remember our younger, single Marine population lives in the barracks, and many are away from home for the first time,” Andrews states. “Whether it’s through special events, such as a ski trip or concert in Raleigh, or getting Marines involved with their local community, such as Habitat for Humanity or the animal shelter, SMP is a network. We all know Valentine’s Day can be depressing for those who are single, and if you’re in that mode and also in a war zone, it turns into a combination of factors that severely hinder the Marine. We believe in going above and beyond every year to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
For more information about sending Valentine cards to Marines overseas, contact Carol Trott at (910) 347-5332. All cards must be received no later than 5 p.m. on January 20th at Onslow County Parks and Recreation Department, 1244 Onslow Pines Road, Jacksonville, NC 28540.