American Legion Family members of Pat Tillman Post 117 in Phoenix, Ariz., are delivering Christmas cheer by mail to deployed servicemembers. Over 21,000 Christmas cards are on their way to military men and women who will be away from their loved ones this holiday season.
“We want them to know that there’s an American Legion here in Phoenix, Arizona, that really cares for them,” said Auxiliary Unit 117 President Christine Rodriguez, who organizes the card signing, now in its sixth year. “That each message on the card is heartfelt and that we do appreciate them, and we do hope that they know they’re loved, even though they don’t know us, America does love them. We specifically love them here at the Post 117.”
That’s not all. There’s more holiday cheer from the Post 117 Legion Family – a shipment of 40 care packages filled with toiletries, chocolate, gum, granola bars, the Christmas cards, spices and more are also on their way to deployed servicemembers.
“We are trying to let them know that we love them, and we appreciate them. They’re putting their lives on the line for us,” said Unit 117 2nd Vice President Char Myrick, who organizes the care packages and understands sacrifice coming from a military family and a father who was in law enforcement. “Their families are also sacrificing for us. If we send some packages, it makes life easier for them. I just want to make life easier for them because of what they’re doing for us.”
The Christmas cards and care packages “makes my heart soar,” said Post 117 Commander Mark Burton. “It’s action. It’s not just words. We have a little saying, well done is greater than well said. Our American Legion post family, and I accent the word family – our Auxiliary, our Sons, our Riders – make it a commitment to do things, not say things.”
The Christmas card signing kicked off in July at the post with a potluck meal and raffle drawing. Post 117 Legionnaires, Auxiliary members and Sons of The American Legion members have signed cards for the past five months, along with other Legion posts in the 12th District and community members who saw the good the post was doing on the news and social media.
“It’s an hour or two of (community members coming in and) signing cards, and it will be very impactful for the people that are going to be receiving those cards,” said Rodriguez, adding that each card has up to 10 signatures. For District 12, Rodriguez put forth a challenge – the post that signed the most cards would receive $100 from Auxiliary Unit 117. Post 65 “stepped up big time and they gave us 4,000 cards signed,” she said, which helped the post surpass its goal of 17,117 cards to over 21,000. “So other posts are really stepping up and helping us as well, and I appreciate each and everyone.”
The Post 117 Legion Family knows the impact the cards have on deployed servicemembers. A recipient of a card several years ago, Todd Struble, is now the director of Post 117’s Legion Riders chapter. He moved to Phoenix following service and joined Post 117 because of the card. “He said it was something that he never forgot,” Rodriguez said.
The Legion Family too sees the impact the care packages, now in its second year, have as they have received photos of servicemembers holding care items in appreciation. One recipient is a post member’s son who is stationed in Germany and shares items from the care packages with others in his platoon. And two post members have a granddaughter stationed on the USS Gerald Ford who is looking forward to the care packages along with her shipmates.
Items are collected from Legion Family members and the community thanks to the creative efforts of Myrick’s daughter, Victoria, who helped create a flyer and promotes it on social media.
Burton, Rodriguez and Myrick each say that it takes the entire Legion Family to make the cards and care packages possible. “We want to see our veterans put up where they should be and that’s in the forefront. This brings the family together because it brings everybody together, our Riders, our Sons of The American Legion, our Axillary unit, all get behind this.”
“It’s not just an Auxiliary thing. We have the backing of each and every one that’s in this post,” Rodriguez said.
Last year when Myrick brought the care package idea to the post, worse case scenario was that “we would be able to send out items and help a lot of our military, and it’s going to make our family be that much stronger. I wanted to have something that was not for one entity of the post, that it was for everybody to come together and work together as a family because our post really is one big family. We look out for each other, and we try to help each other. I just thought this (care packages) is something that affects all of us in one shape or form.”