For soldiers serving in far-away places and wounded warriors closer to home, being remembered at Christmas is just the thing to make their spirits bright.
To make that happen, cadets from the Air Force JROTC unit at Lebanon High School have completed more than 1,666 Christmas cards for military personnel, both on active duty and in the guard, as well as veterans.
The "Christmas Card Project" is a tradition for the cadets for the past six years. Last year, cadets sent 1,254 cards.
Ret. Maj. Cal Sims is the senior aerospace science instructor at Lebanon High School said his students have taken the project to heart.
"This year’s increased total is an indicator of the value the cadet corps place on the importance of this matter – telling military personnel and veterans just how much we appreciate their sacrifices for their country – especially at this time of year," he said.
So far, cards have been prepared for wounded warriors and other service members and veterans at Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany and the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. Cards were also prepared for 150 Tennessee National Guard soldiers deployed overseas and 76 Tennessee Air Guardsmen and women deployed overseas during Christmas. In total, almost 600 cards are prepared for service members and veterans based on names submitted to JROTC.
Many of the cards are winging their way to around the world to many of the various places where Americans are serving. Others will be hand delivered by the cadets.
JROTC member Rachel Pope, the only girl currently in the program, is a point person on the project.
"I'm in charge of getting the cards together and getting postage," she said. "We want to send a little Christmas spirit to all in the military and let them know we're thinking of them on the holiday."
Senior John Crook is a member of the JROTC class and is already signed up to join the Marine Corps after graduation. He plans to become an officer, and he has no problem imagining how he would feel if he received one of the cards while far from home.
"If I were overseas and come back from a mission and saw one of these cards, I'd break down in tears," he said.
Pope said the cards serve a simple purpose.
"They let them know how we feel about what they're doing for us," she said.
Senior JROTC cadets will visit the Veterans Administration hospital in Murfreesboro on Monday to deliver more than 600 Christmas cards prepared by Lebanon High School art students. With so many vets forgotten and so many soldiers serving our country far away, it's hard to overestimate just how welcome these touches of home are.
"This is an outstanding effort turned in by those students and their instructors," Sims said. "Hopefully, this effort will turn into an ongoing tradition at LHS."