First Lady Katie O'Malley, Maryland Students Kick Off "Operation Appreciation" Letter Writing Campaign to America's Veterans

Soldiers showing off their greetings from Operation AppreciationBALTIMORE, MD (November 11, 2009) In recognition of Veterans Day, First Lady Katie O’Malley today joined Governor Martin O’Malley, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nancy Grasmick, Brigadier General James A. Adkins, and Superintendent of Baltimore County Schools Dr. Joe A. Hairston today to kick off “Operation Appreciation,” a letter writing campaign thanking Veterans, service members and military families for their sacrifice and service to our country.  First Lady O’Malley, together with General Adkins and Dr. Grasmick, has asked Maryland’s 24 School Districts to write letters to show gratitude and support for our Veterans, which will be sent to Blue Star Families, a national organization that assists military families and the organization spearheading “Operation Appreciation.”

“I am proud to join Dr. Grasmick, General Adkins, Dr. Hairston and the other 23 school districts across the State in showing our appreciation to our nation’s Veterans and their families,” said First Lady Katie O’Malley.  “Each day Veterans put their lives on the line to fight for our country, to protect each and every one of us, and to help make sure we feel safe every day.  As we recognize the courageousness of our service members, we must also recognize the incredible strength of the families of those serving. Our men and women in uniform couldn’t do their jobs without the love and support their families provide. They deserve our thanks as well.”

“We can never repay our nation’s Veterans and military families for the sacrifices they have made to keep every one of us safe and secure,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.  “Maryland students are delighted to be working with the First Lady on this worthy project.”

“I am very grateful for the letters being written by these young people,” said General Adkins. “The letters will greatly boost the morale of our military personnel and provide a much needed touch of home.”

Governor and First Lady with students from Dumbarton Middle SchoolThe eighth grade students of Dumbarton Middle School presented the First Lady with their letters that will be sent to Blue Star Families.  Two students from Dumbarton, Christina Kearns and Kelly Markowske, read their letters of thanks at today’s event.  Christina Kearns wrote her letter to a child in a military family, and Kelly wrote her letter to a veteran.  Today’s letters are the first batch that will be sent out from Maryland students showing their gratitude and support for our nation’s Veterans, military service men and women and their families.  First Lady O’Malley also submitted a letter from her two sons, Jack and Will, in support of Veterans. 

“I applaud Baltimore County Public Schools students who continue to focus on high academic achievement; and I especially respect their compassion to reach out and participate in important activities such as their Letter Writing Campaign for this Veterans Day Observance,” said Superintendent of Baltimore County Schools Dr. Joe Hairston. 

“I am very pleased that grade 8 students, through their language arts unit ‘Heroes and Heroines,’ are able to show their appreciation to veterans and their families for their service to the United States,” said Dumbarton Middle School Principal Nancy Fink.

Blue Star Families was formed in December 2008 by a group of military spouses to raise the awareness of the challenges of military family life with our civilian communities and leaders. BSF has grown to include spouses and families from all services and all walks of life, including National Guard and Reserve, as well as veterans and civilians who strongly support us.  Blue Star Families is a non-partisan, non-profit organization, created by real military families.  The organization is committed to supporting one another through the unique challenges of military service and asking the larger civilian population to help as well, connectingmilitary families regardless of rank, branch of service or physical location, and empowering military family members to create the best personal and family life possible for themselves. Through outreach and involvement with national and local organizations, civilian communities and government entities, Blue Star Families works hand in hand to share the pride of service, promote healthier families, aid in our military readiness and contribute to our country's strength.

“Blue Star Families is grateful for the letters of appreciation from Maryland's school children to our military families,” said Claire Woodward, Executive Director of Blue Star Families.  “Having a Mom or Dad overseas can be hard for the children of our military.   The impact of a simple ‘thank you’ is immeasurable, and goes a long way towards making a deployment’s difficult days brighter.”

“We are not only grateful for the dedication and service of our military, but for the hard work and sacrifice of our heroes at home-- the families,” said Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith.

Earlier this morning, Governor O’Malley and First Lady O’Malley joined Brigadier General James A. Adkins and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nancy Grasmick at the kick off of the Military Child Education Coalition Training.  Governor O’Malley delivered remarks to educators from across the State who have come together to learn about the the challenges children face when loved ones of the National Guard or Reserves are deployed or have returned from overseas deployments.

“I continue to be amazed by our citizen-soldiers and reservists who continue to give of themselves in service to our nation and state,” said Governor O’Malley.  “The O’Malley-Brown Administration is committed to doing all we can to ensure children of deployed service members have the support they need before, during and after deployments involving parents, brothers and sisters and other loved ones whom the children look up to.  We know educators play an important role in the day-to-day lives of children as they are often the first line of defense in identifying challenges that could be affecting them. That is why this type of training is so valuable and why our Administration is so supportive of it.”

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