By Lance Cpl. Alex Fairchild
This Valentine’s Day, USO Camp Foster spread some joy and positivity to service members by delivering love-filled gifts customized by their families back at home.
“The USO came walking into my work station, and it was a complete mystery why they were there,” U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Hayden Huntington said. “As soon as they walked up to me, I realized that my parents had sent me a gift, and I couldn’t hold back my smile.”
Operation Valentine began with a single information post about their new gift giving idea, on the USO’s Facebook page. It allowed families to request and personalize gifts to be delivered to service members aboard Camp Foster, Camp Lester and Plaza Housing.
Within Huntington’s gift contained a personalized message from his family, a photograph of his dog and a bag of Valentine’s Day-themed candy.
“Stationed overseas and away from your family can be difficult,” Huntington said. “I was so grateful to receive this gift, and it was an additional reminder that my family is looking out for me at home.”
He expressed how truly grateful he was to be a recipient of the USO’s kindness because he now has an additional reminder of home and his canine friend. He said he could feel the impact of the USO’s outreach extending to him through Operation Valentine.
“Operation Valentine was a brand-new idea we had this year, and it blossomed into a huge success,” USO Camp Foster Field Programs Manager Alejandra Kwiatkowski said. “Over 40 families signed up to give customized gifts to their loved ones. We had the fortune of delivering them and putting a smile on everyone’s face.”
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Kwiatkowski said that seeing firsthand how the USO is making an impact in the life of service members and their families is heartwarming. It’s the main reason she continues to organize events like these that help maintain personal relationships from afar.
“Keeping service members’ warrior spirit high is critical to their mission,” Kwiatkowski said. “A large part of that spirit is maintained by keeping connections strong with their families. A lot of service members haven’t been able to see them possibly for over a year due to the pandemic.”
-This article was originally published on DVIDSHub.net. It has been edited for USO.org.
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