When my kids think of community service, they think about picking up trash along the road, visiting the animal shelter and collecting food – all of which are good things, but I don’t know that they actually have learned why we do – or should do – community service or understand the importance of community service to the beneficiaries. Now they do.
Together, Girl Scout troop 2255 and Boy Scout troop 888 chose to do a community service learning project that was not only worthy of the time and effort, but also a great deal of fun. The kids chose to do Operation Honor Card and commit community service hours in the name of soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Operation Honor Cards is the joint project of Blue Star Families, the American Red Cross, and ServiceNation: Mission Serve. Inspired by the First Lady's Joining Forces campaign for military families, the program aims to create an atmosphere of 'shared service' and a WWII sense of 'all give some' by encouraging Americans to perform service in honor of military families and veterans.
Although initially the kids didn’t know exactly why or what would comprise a care package, we had a chance to talk about the things that might make a hospital stay a little easier and more comfortable – socks for cold feet, balm for chapped lips, cards, games, puzzles for the mind. And we talked about the soldiers who were at Walter Reed and how their service helped ensure that we had a better life every day.
All while in the comfort of a home with friends, food & drink. The kids learned, they had fun. They banked community service hours, did a good thing and were helpful without tremendous effort. I don’t know about you, but some service projects – like picking up trash along the creek – get old really quickly for the kids.
One of the greatest challenges for the kids – some from military families, some not – was drafting the pledge cards. “How much do I write, what do I say?” they asked. “Something from your heart” was the best answer – some of the girls drew pictures others wrote in the stars screened on each card. But each child knew that when the project was complete, someone would smile when they pulled out a card and peeked inside.
Three hours later, our care packages were complete. Notes were written for every package and the items were boxed for delivery. So little required to touch so many. The kids wanted to know when we’d do operation honor card again and I promised soon. We thought that maybe next time, we’d honor the families and children of our service members. That’s going to take a little thought, but again, it is something we can do that’s fun, simple and worthwhile. We may do an Operation Honor Card children’s book drive!
All I’m sure of is that the kids who participated in our project learned, felt very personally satisfied and had a blast – they’ll definitely do it again.
Sheri Robey-Lapan is a military spouse and Director of Military Family Wellness Programs with Blue Star Families. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her daughter Kiki and nephew A.J.