Few reunions are more emotional than a service member’s return from a tour of duty.
Students at the Board of Child Care’s Strawbridge School have made these returns a little richer by participating with Maryland’s Operation Welcome Home (OWH) to create hand-made greeting cards for service members to receive at Baltimore-Washington International airport.
Operation Welcome Home boasts having greeted over 600,000 military personnel in Baltimore since 2007. BWI receives the highest number of returning veterans in the nation annually, according to Kathy Thorpe, founder of Operation Welcome Home – Maryland.
“A lot of these troops have no idea we’re going to be there, and they’re so touched to see any effort to welcome them home,” said Thorp. “It’s too difficult to describe if you haven’t seen it. When the veterans see these cards, and the posters and people welcoming them home, they’re often overcome with emotion.”
For many veterans, BWI represents the first leg of many before they return to family and friends. BCC’s involvement started in August, 2015, with over 50 handmade Operation Welcome Home cards.
“We read about OWH and thought it was an awesome idea to provide our troops with “Welcome Home” banners and cards,” said Shawn Elbert, BCC’s Spiritual Life Coordinator for the Baltimore campus. “Usually, when you talk to young people and students about doing a community service project it is met with some hesitancy, however, this time was different. Our residents made heartfelt cards and you could sense they were truly appreciative and thankful for all that the service men and women of this country do to protect our freedom.”
The cards from Strawbridge students were collected by Elbert and dispersed to veterans in late October. None of the veterans who received them knew who they were receiving a card from, a dynamic Thorpe described as thrilling.
“You watch them stand there and read the cards and realize it’s a real flesh and blood reminder of what they protected and who they protected while they served,” Thorpe said. “It’s the innocence, the sweetness, and the honesty that stands out to the soldiers.”
Elbert said the cards represent the first step in building a bridge with this segment of the community.
“We’ve really made a connection with our kids and hopefully, between the community and troops who live and work in and around us.”