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December 7, 2010 > Give thanks for our freedom, honor our soldiers and veterans

Give thanks for our freedom, honor our soldiers and veterans

By Supervisor Dave Cortese

As I sit down with my family during this holiday season, there is much for which I give thanks - health, happiness and freedom. I want to take a moment to give thanks to the brave men and women who make it possible for me to enjoy these things.

Regardless of your views on the reasons for the current wars in the Middle East, the fact remains there are hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops stationed around the world, serving our country - far away from home.

I joined many of you to celebrate our veterans on Veteran's Day. However, that is only one day. Please join me in honoring our soldiers throughout this holiday season and on the other 364 days of the year. There are many ways to do so, from volunteering at a local United Service Organizations (USO) center to sending a care package to a soldier abroad. Even something as simple and quick as a short, personal letter of thanks to a soldier for his or her service can have a profound impact.

The purpose of these activities is to show our soldiers their efforts are not forgotten and we appreciate their sacrifices. While I can only highlight a few opportunities, everyone can do something to help.

For the most direct contact with a soldier, the USO is always looking for volunteers to staff their centers where soldiers can relax, connect with loved ones back home, enjoy snacks and a wide range of USO programs and services. For more information about how to help and locations of USO centers, visit

If you do not have the time to volunteer at a USO center, a very popular option is to send a care package to a soldier overseas. There are many organizations, such as Soldiers' Angels, that help to organize and send packages. There are many levels of commitment, such as sending hand-made blankets, donating a few dollars to help purchase supplies or even building your own care package. Anything that gives a soldier the comfort or taste of home is cherished. For more information about Soldiers' Angels, visit

Dispose of excess Halloween candy for a good cause through the Halloween Candy Buy Back Program which enlists local dentists to purchase surplus candy from neighborhood kids to send to troops overseas. To find a local dentist participating in this program, visit

The simplest way to thank a soldier for their hard work is to send a "thank you" letter. For just the cost of a card and a few minutes of your time, you can have an enormous impact on the daily life of a hero. A short letter of gratitude and a positive update on current events back home can really lift their spirit. Operation Gratitude's program ( does not even require a postage stamp.

As you, your friends and family enjoy the festivities together this holiday season, please join me in giving thanks for the American soldiers who enable us to continue our traditions and enjoy our freedoms back home. Let us practice what we preach by volunteering or sending cards and care packages to our brave soldiers.

There are many other organizations besides the ones that I have mentioned. If you would like help finding a specific organization or would like to talk with me on any other subject, please contact me at (408) 299-5030 or

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