By Erik Oberg
Americans have been mailing cards to members of the U.S. military for decades, hoping to lift the spirits of those serving our country away from home. But USO supporter Sharon Ware takes a different approach – she shows her love for our nation’s military not by mailing cards, but by making them by hand and sharing them with the USO for military families to enjoy.
Ware’s cards are adorned with beautiful stamps and sentiments but are purposely unaddressed – as they’re meant to be used by service members and military spouses to send well wishes to their own loved ones, near and far.
The patrons of USO Wright-Patterson, located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB) in Ohio, have benefitted from Ware’s handiwork for several months.
Unfortunately, last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ware was diagnosed with cancer. To help process this difficult news, she turned to designing greeting cards to lift her own spirits as she confronted this very challenging time. Though her health has since improved, she remains committed to her newfound mission.
Turning Handmade Crafts into Moments of Connection
“At first I only made birthday cards for family and friends,” Ware said. “But I wanted to design an assortment of styles, expressing a range of sentiments, so I searched for nonprofits where I could donate cards.”
Thankfully, a family member who was once stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB told her about the USO center located there. Sharon hoped the USO might provide an outlet for her craft, as well as a way to give back to the military. To date, she has delivered several dozen of her colorful, multi-layered cards to the USO center, including thank you notes, get well cards, condolence cards and cards meant to just cheer you up.
Ware explains that one thing that makes her cards so special is that they’re not perfect. “Sometimes the stamps are a little crooked. They’re handmade and that’s what makes them nice.”
USO center staff have placed them all on a rack for patrons to peruse, and the feedback has only been positive.
Military spouse Linh Bui was so impressed by the selection that she wrote to Ware: “I brought my kids [to the USO] to have a snack and play games … noticed your cards and thought how perfect! Thank you so much for sharing your talent! This constantly-moving military family appreciates you and your cards.”
Though Ware did not serve in the military herself, she married an Army veteran who can trace a family lineage of sustained military service all the way back to the Revolutionary War.
She also has fond memories of the USO that date back more than 50 years. As a student at the St. Elizabeth School of Nursing in Dayton, Ohio, in the 1960s, Ware would board a bus every Friday night to attend USO-sponsored dances at Wright-Patterson AFB.
“We’d fill the bus! It was so much fun,” Ware said. Undoubtedly, she danced with airmen who would soon head off to Vietnam.
Ware makes all of her cards on a craft table in a walk-in closet in a spare bedroom at her home in Ohio. It’s important to her to convey a variety of messages in her cards and she also understands how personal it can be for a patron who is seeking a card to match a specific occasion.
Her favorite card sentiment for our military audience: “Miles apart but still in my heart.”
“That’s one a lot of military members can use, and that makes those cards even more special for me,” she said.
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