Last December when her grandfather, Gerald “Jerry” David, passed away at age 98, Sarah David decided she wanted to do something special in his memory while honoring others.
“He was a World War II Veteran who, when he wore his Seabee denim jacket, loved when people would thank him for his service,” recalls David, referring to the nickname for the storied U.S. Naval Construction Battalions. “My new program, Thank You Notes to Vets, is designed to help Maryland veterans feel that same sense of appreciation from our greater community.”
A Towson resident, David founded Thank You Notes to Vets last spring with a deadline of Nov. 11, Veterans Day. She hopes to have cards of gratitude from more than 500 note writers delivered to the estimated 1,000 veterans in veterans’ facilities around the state.
David is funding the program herself. Her partners include Jewish Volunteer Connection, the hands-on volunteer branch of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore; Baltimore Hebrew Congregation (BHC); the Maryland Department of Veteran Affairs, the University of Maryland Harambee Treatment Center in Baltimore; and Bedford Elementary School in Pikesville.
Jmore recently spoke with David, 33, who is a senior assistant state prosecutor in the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor and former chief of staff for Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin (D-11th). She and her husband, Glenn Gordon, have a 19-month old son, Cyrus David Gordon, and belong to BHC.
Jmore: How would you describe Thank You Notes to Vets?
SD: This is a project to show Maryland veterans that we value their service and appreciate their commitment to our country. There is a lot of divisiveness in American politics today, and this project is a way for us all to unite to say, “Thank you.”
Who exactly will receive the notes?
The recipients will be members of Maryland veterans’ facilities. A few months ago, I reached out to Dana Hendrickson, the director of outreach and advocacy at the Maryland Department of Veteran Affairs. She quickly connected me with the various housing entities for Maryland Veterans, and our goal is to have each veteran receive at least one thank-you note from a Maryland resident.
What kind of reaction do you expect?
I hope they will react like my grandfather would — with pride for what they have done and continue to do for our country, and with happiness that people are thinking of them.
Who will be the letter writers?
They are all kinds of people. I’ve been working with the Jewish Volunteer Connection, which incorporated these notes into their Day to Unite, a day of service [on Sept. 16] for the greater Baltimore area. Recently, we brought a bunch of thank-you notes to the Harambee Center in Sandtown and talked to the kids about veterans and who they are. The kids at the center wrote and decorated notes for us to deliver.
We are also partnering with Bedford Elementary School so the students can express their gratitude for people who have served our country. And Baltimore Hebrew Congregation is using this as a project for their Hebrew school and early childhood center.
But this is not only for kids. The Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office is contributing letters as well.
Why is this important?
This is an important way for people to take time out of their busy schedules and think about people they might not otherwise see on a daily basis. A lot of the members of the veteran community are elderly and not close to family. This is a way for people to connect with them. For children, it’s also a wonderful practice in the important value of saying thank you and writing notes.
How did you get personally involved?
I started this program to honor my grandfather and thank all of the people that took the time to walk up and thank him for his service at a restaurant or to pay for his meal. This is to honor them, too, and to remind myself to incorporate that gratitude into my daily life.
Do you envision a future for this program?
I would love to see this be a project in early November for all the schools in the area. I would love to partner with as many community organizations and individuals that want to take the time to say thank you. I’d also love if some of the veterans would write back, especially to the schoolchildren, about their experiences.
How can people get involved?
Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md.-based freelance writer.