The holidays are fast approaching. One of the traditions of the season is to send out Christmas cards to friends and family.
Boy Scout Troop 98 of Brodheadsville has taken that tradition to a higher level. They send Christmas cards to the troops of United States military men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Working with Friends of Our Troops in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in a program called "Fan Mail for the Troops," the Scouts personalize Christmas cards and then send them to Friends of Our Troops who then forward them to the service men and women overseas.
Last year Troop 98 wrote out 2,500 cards. For that act of kindness, the troop received a letter and a trophy from Friends of Our Troops for being the number one nationwide Scouting troop in their efforts to make the holiday a little bit brighter by receiving mail from home. Each year, the individual boys receive a certificate and a pin for their participation.
This year, the troop hopes to top that number by signing 3,000 cards. They have been working on the project since the beginning of October and hope to complete it by next week.
Dave Weinman, Troop 98's Scoutmaster, says that the boys bring in the cards but Paul Schuchman of Odd Lots in East Stroudsburg generously donated 6,000 cards to the troop this year.
"We've been doing this for 10 years. I first read about it in an article in "Boy's Life" magazine and thought it would be a great project for our boys. I contacted Friends and we've been working with them ever since," says Weinman.
The boys write out a little bio on themselves and their troop. They make copies of the bio, paste them in the cards and then personally sign each card. There are 39 members in Troop 98 and each boy is supposed to handwrite their signature in each one.
Sometimes the boys get responses from the service men and women, which they share with their troop.
Justin Nuyen, 14 and a 10th grader at Pleasant Valley High School says that he received a thank you from two service people, one male, one female.
"The guy said that he was a Boy Scout and the girl said she thought it was great that people back home do this. They both said how much they appreciated the cards. It made me feel pretty good that I made them feel better," says Justin.
Andy Atherton, 14 and 9th grader at PV said that he received one reply from a female sailor, Tara, from the ship USS Cowpin. She thanked him for the card but told him she didn't receive it until the middle of the summer. Andy and his family looked up the ship on the Internet and the week they received the response from Tara was the same week she was named "Sailor of the Week" on her ship.
"I was happy and surprised to get the reply. I'm planning on sending her my email address and maybe we can correspond," says Andy.
Brandon Kresh, 14 and 9th grader at PV says that he signed 125 cards last year. He got a reply from a sailor, MSG Connie Beattie, who sent pictures of the ship she was on and a thank you for taking the time to send her a card.
Chris Major, a 15-year-old PV 10th grader who wrote out 165 cards last year, says he received a reply from a male Army Ranger.
"He told me he was based right outside Bagdad. His whole platoon sent pictures of Iraq. I know how much it means to these guys to get mail from home. My older sister, Amanda, is in the Navy and she's stationed in Japan and I know how much it means to her when we email her and talk to her on the phone."
One service woman who was stationed in Afghanistan sent the troop an American flag that had flown over her military installation. It is now the troop's official American flag at their weekly meetings held at the Pleasant Valley Elementary School cafeteria Tuesdays from 7-8:30 p.m.
"We're sending our greetings to the troops overseas so they know they're not forgotten," says Weinman.