Year-End Drive To Write Letters Of Gratitude To Veterans Underway

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Published: December 21, 2015 @ 6:00 AM EDT

We live in the digital age. Less and less we communicate the written word on actual paper. This newspaper is proof of that. More and more, messages – sometimes important ones – are relegated to e-mails, posts, tweets, messenger tags, chats, and kiks.

But thoughts and kind words written by hand mean something more than those on a screen. There is no more proof of that then when earlier this year, Roselle Park residents Diana Parra had an idea to have students from Roselle Park send letters to active servicemen and women around Veterans Day. With the help of Board of Education (BOE)member Jeof Vita, School Superintendent Pedro Garrido, and Roselle Park teachers and students, a bundle of letters found their way to active military men and women. It was a way to thank those who will become veterans after their active service is complete. Now, another good idea is taking shape. It has to do with those who served in the armed forces but who are facing some trying times in veterans hospitals. And this time, it includes adults and families.

Greeting cards and letters from children always brighten anyone’s day but getting a letter from an adult, who sometimes better relate to a life full of experiences, can also be just as meaningful. Whether it is just to say ‘Hi’, ‘Thank you for your service’ , a sincere ‘Hope you get well soon’ , or ‘You are in our prayers’  – to take the time to put sentiments into words makes it real; something to look back at from time to time when times get tough again or when spirits need lifting. Adults understand the sacrifices made and the toll such things sometimes take.

During this holiday season at the closing of the year, councilman-elect Thomas ‘Thos’ Shipley is spearheading this ‘Thank You Drive’ throughout town.

Besides being a soon-to-be councilman, he is also the son of a 20-year military career man. An army brat, Thos and his brothers lived their early childhood at Camp Zama – about 25 miles southwest of Tokyo, Japan. Their teenage years were spent in Maryland, where his father was stationed at the Aberdeen Grounds with the 327th Army Band while his mother taught in the public schools.

Later in his father’s life, the man who Thos always looked up to as a personal hero and role model, fell ill and became – not frail because he was always strong – but a dad and a veteran who needed full-time care. Thos recounted, “As my father’s medical condition worsened, he spent his last year of his life under the care of the professionals and volunteers at Perry Point Veterans nursing home in Harve de Grace, Maryland. The staff was wonderful and the care he received gave him the dignity and respect that our servicemen deserve.”

Keeping in his mind the great care his father received, Thos always remembered how things felt a little better when families visited and when mail came. For some, the letters would be read and placed next to their beds in a rainbow of cards while others would read, and re-read and re-read, letters of thanks and well wishes. Thos wants to bring that experience to the service men and women at the New Jersey State Veterans Memorial Home at Menlo Park. A ‘thank you’ from Roselle Park to them.

It really does not take much for the senders but, at the same time, it means so much for those who receive such gift of words. The few minutes spent will be treasured for countless moments. Adults and families can write a simple card or letter (no envelopes needed) with an uplifting message and their name(s) in the letter. A return address should be included in case any veterans would like to write back.

Letters will be delivered in late January to the Veterans Memorial Home-Menlo Park in Edison, New Jersey when Thos also plans to perform for the residents in memory of his father and the staff who cared for him in his time of need.

Drop-off boxes for letters and cards of gratitude are at the following locations:

  • 117 Chestnut Street (Dowling’s Irish Pub & Restaurant) [added 01/04/2016]
  • 120 Chestnut Street (Joe & Jodi’s Barber Shop)
  • 9 West Grant Avenue (Roselle Park Historical Society & Museum) [added 01/04/2016]
  • 404 Chestnut Street (Roselle Park Veterans Memorial Library) [added 12/22/2015]
  • 301 West Clay Avenue (IORIO Deli)
  • 824 Larch Street (home of Thos Shipley and Joe DeIorio)

More locations will be announced and updated as they become available. Any business or home that wants to become a drop-off location can reach out to Thos via e-mail (link).

“Roselle Park is a caring community,” said Thos. “I am confident that our citizens will show a continuation of outpouring of support for our veterans thanking them for all they did for our country.”