The local military spouse who came up with the Veteran Pen Pal Project as a day-brightener for residents of the Lawton-Fort Sill Veterans Center has now teamed up with Veteran’s Last Patrol to serve as local representative for its second annual Operation Holiday Salute.

Christina Etchberger is also the administrator for “It’s a Military Life,” a website, Facebook page and Instagram account that gives military spouses a place to connect virtually.

She said the Veteran Pen Pal Project will redirect some of its efforts “towards a wonderful group called the Veteran’s Last Patrol, and we’re really excited about doing it.”

The main mission of this nationwide, nonprofit organization is to have end-of-life care for veterans in hospice. She called it “veterans helping veterans, essentially.”

For its first Operation Holiday Salute in 2019, Veteran’s Last Patrol asked patrons to send holiday cards and small gifts to veterans in hospice to show appreciation for their sacrifices.

As a volunteer for the 2020 holiday campaign, Etchberger has been publicizing Operation Holiday Salute through “It’s a Military Life” and another community called “Giving Tuesday Military” that focuses on acts of kindness.

“We’ve been really trying to spread the word because last year Operation Holiday Salute received 4,000 cards and now this year their goal is 10,000,” she said.

“All people do is they send their cards to Veteran’s Last Patrol, 140B Venture Blvd., Spartanburg, SC 29306,” Etchberger explained.

The salutation on the card should be either “Dear Veteran” or “Dear Hero,” and the sender should express gratitude for what the veteran has done. Veteran’s Last Patrol would like to have all cards in hand by no later than Dec. 7.

“It could be schools, adults, clubs, civilians, military, anyone willing to give this act of kindness to our veterans,” she said.

The cards will be distributed to veterans who received support through Veteran’s Last Patrol during the past year as well as to any hospice centers interested in participating as recipients.

If anyone wants to connect with the program or has any questions, he or she may email Etchberger at christie@itsamilitarylife.com

This will be a holiday initiative for the Veteran Pen Pal Project, which continues to support the well-being of residents of the Lawton-Fort Sill Veterans Center.

“They have been getting so many letters. It’s been going so well with them, and now it’s holiday season with Veteran’s Last Patrol, so we’re looking to branch out with who we are helping and in this case we’re trying to help out Veteran’s Last Patrol with their 10,000-card goal,” Etchberger said.

Appropriate small gifts might be something holiday-related, a nice token of appreciation or something the veteran could have in his or her room by their bedside to look at.

“I’ve seen people send beautiful knitted blankets, things like that,” she suggested.

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