Holidays are also a time to remember our servicepersons

·3 min read

Remembrance Day has come and gone, the Christmas decorations have replaced banners saluting men and women who stepped up to serve their country, and people are very much focused on the holidays ahead.

But, for Aurora’s Dianne Harrison, paying tribute to the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces doesn’t end as soon as we place our poppies on cenotaphs across the country after the eleventh hour. It is just the beginning as she organizes communities in the GTA to pen holiday cards for soldiers stationed around Canada and abroad.

Ms. Harrison is in the home stretch of her card drive, which regularly brings in thousands of Christmas cards from across Southern Ontario and from as far afield as Alberta.

Each year, Ms. Harrison mobilizes her community and surrounding areas, and the communities of her friends and family, to write holiday messages for members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Whether you’re picking up a card of your own, or one from Ms. Harrison’s stock which are always in ready supply, she and her husband Brian are eager to pick them up from you and, in the coming weeks, bundle them off to Canadian bases all over the world.

“I started reading some of the messages over the weekend and I started to cry,” says Ms. Harrison of the cards that have rolled in so far, many of which have come from students. “They are just written from their hearts and they are beautiful words. Some kids even painted pictures on these magnificent cards.”

Last year, the Harrisons set a goal of sending out 4,000 messages. They handily surpassed that, collecting 7,000 in the process. With this year’s goal standing at 5,000, they are once again poised to exceed that – but can only do so with your help.

“Last year, we did 31 bases and this year we hope to do 20 to 25 bases, as well as the veterans’ hospital at Sunnybrook which we did last year,” she says. “We sent to Italy, we sent to Turkey, and last year at Sharon Public School (East Gwillimbury), the JKs and the SKs did a Google call with soldiers in Turkey and had the opportunity to thank them – and they had bragging rights! They were just so thrilled to talk to the military.”

If you’re interested in taking part in the program but feel at a loss at what you might say to the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, Ms. Harrison says it’s just a matter of keeping it simple and straight from the heart: “Just thank them for their service, and thank them for their sacrifices – not just the soldiers, but their families as well. Their families give up so much for the soldiers in our military and we keep forgetting about them and their families. We just want them to be home soon, safe. We care about them, respect them and wish them well.”

This is the 16th season Dianne and Brian Harrison have taken the lead on this card-writing project. They were inspired to do so by a colleague who has since died who had a son serving in Afghanistan. It was her idea and, following her passing, came together to ensure the legacy lived on.

“The problem her son pointed out was a lot of these guys were single men with no mom or dad,” recalls Brian. “A lot of people didn’t even know they were there. He asked, ‘Mom, can you get me 16 cards for these guys who have nobody to write them?’ and that is how she started and we have taken it on ever since. We have to get someone a little bit younger in years to help us out though so that when we can’t do it any more we’re sure it can go on!”

For more information on how to contribute your message to a Canadian soldier, including nearby drop-off locations or to arrange a pick-up, contact Dianne Harrison at bdharrison2012@gmail.com.

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran

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