Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)

Every mother, young or old, has a box tucked away somewhere that is full of folded construction paper, caked with glue and glitter and a great big “I love you” written in crayon on it. If you have ever seen her come across one, it will stop her dead in her tracks and it seems she just gazes at it for hours. It’s almost magic, the memories and moments from the past play back like a movie before your very eyes.

As a father of four with a six-pack of grandkids, I have my share of misspelled masterpieces as well – many of which are framed in my office today. But on one special occasion recently, I found myself with hundreds of these hand-made cards and witnessed that magic all over again. I was on a plane headed to Germany to visit our wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan recovering in U.S. Military hospitals. I pulled out a few hand-made cards by school children back here in Texas. The person sitting next to me asked to see one, then the person across the aisle asked if she could too. Next thing I knew, the whole plane was passing cards around.

Everyone was talking to one another, sharing stories, reliving various memories, and taking to heart the innocence of childhood. While these cards had all the markings of the ones made for mom, the inside was very different. These cards were written to our nation’s troops, hoping they get better and come home soon. They were filled with words like “hero,” “the greatest,” “God Bless the USA,” and “thank you!” The kids drew American flags, enclosed their school photos, and adorned them with smiley faces. Each and every one was written with so much respect and appreciation of the sacrifices these heroes made for them. There is just something about a little kid making a handmade card for a tough fighting Marine.

Some of the passengers on the plane got teary-eyed viewing these cards of concern.   When I went to the hospitals it was an honor for me to deliver the cards and watch these real-life heroes read the well-wishes from home – from the home they were fighting for, that they were willing to lay down their lives for.

Even though the cards were made by our Texas school children, I passed them out to all the troops I met from every state. Some of the cards I gave to foreign troops recovering from NATO operations in Afghanistan. In all, I have delivered over 5,000 cards to our warriors.

While I was there, I visited with was a 21-year-old soldier from Huntsville, Alabama. He had been severely injured by an IED and his leg was in bad shape. He, like many of the other troops, asked me to pin the cards to his hospital room wall. When I was leaving his room he said, “these cards are better than any medal, God Bless those little Texans.”

Thanks to a national effort by the well-known columnist Ann Landers, those little Texans and school kids across our country will put our Armed Forces on their Valentine’s Day list once again this year. Established in 1978, the Department of Veterans Affairs honors our country’s heroes the week of February 14thwith a National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans. This year, my staff and I will once again collect cards from our local school children and proudly deliver their heart-felt messages and know that they will serve as reminders of what they are really fighting for.

And that’s just the way it is.