When Wendy Tremiti, director of Alumni Relations for Ojai Valley School, saw the plea on the news from 104-year-old Marine Corps veteran Maj. Bill White, she knew exactly what needed to be done.
Maj. White, who served in World War II and earned a Purple Heart for surviving the Battle of Iwo Jima, had gone on television in early January with a simple request: he asked people around the world to send him Valentine’s Day cards, promising to save every one.
Ms. Tremiti — who has long been active in supporting military veterans and whose husband served in the United States Navy for 13 years — set out to make sure area students answered the call.
Springing into action, she organized Lower Campus teachers at OVS, and at two other schools in the Ojai Valley, to craft Valentine’s Day cards for Maj. White, with local students crafting more than 200 to send to the assisted living facility in Stockton where he lives.
“Many of our veterans live alone in long-term care facilities,” Ms. Tremiti said. “When somebody is alone in an institution and gets a card from a kid saying, ‘thank you,’ it puts a smile on their face.”
It is an annual tradition for students at the Lower Campus to make Valentine’s Day cards for veterans, but this year they were happy to write special cards to this very special person.
“We talk a lot about how it is important to give back to people who have sacrificed so much for our country,” said OVS first grade teacher Nicole Ferro, who was among the elementary school teachers who enlisted her students to craft cards. “Also our theme for the year is ‘Caring for our Community,’ and this is a big way we can show our care for a group of people in our community.”
When Maj. White launched “Operation Valentine” last month, asking to receive Valentine’s Day cards from strangers around the world, there’s no way he could have guessed how big the response would have been.
According to the television show Good Morning America, Maj. White had received more than 2,000 cards — as well as gifts and packages — from people around the world by the end of last month.
Maj. White, who spent 30 years of active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, worked as a police officer after retiring from military service. But throughout his entire life, one of his favorite hobbies has been scrapbooking.
Every year, White has organized his memories and milestones into binders. He plans to add the cards from Operation Valentine to his scrapbooks, where he keeps a lifetime worth of memories on bookshelves arranged by year.
“I’ll save every one of them like I’ve been saving little things that have come up until right now and they’ll be a personal part of my history,” he told Stockton television station KTXL.
It wasn’t just the first-grade class at OVS that got involved in becoming part of Maj. White’s personal history.
Students throughout the elementary division at OVS created Valentine’s Day cards for Maj. White. So did students in middle school science and social studies classes, as teachers presented them the opportunity to show selflessness and compassion for someone they don’t know.
Additionally, Ms. Tremiti rallied two other local schools to help make this happen. Students at Meiners Oaks Elementary School and San Antonio Elementary School also participated in the card creating venture.
Morgan Middough, office manager for Meiners Oaks, persuaded students at that school to get involved.
“Our students will benefit from this by learning about patriotism, love for their country, and leadership,” Ms. Middough said. “We say the pledge of allegiance every morning and now they can connect that daily act to this.”
Ms. Middough believes that this was a great learning experience for students, as it allowed them to use empathy and to put themselves in the shoes of others, which is an important developmental step.
“It allows them to acknowledge their history as well as understand the reasons and consequences for how events happened,” Ms. Middough said.
Last Friday, 209 Valentine’s cards, made by students from these three local schools, were mailed to Maj. White to be added to his 2020 scrapbook. A kind gesture, to be sure. But really, a valuable lesson for students here and across the world.
“It’s an opportunity to share with students the accomplishments and sacrifices of our veterans,” Ms. Tremiti said, “giving them a greater understanding of America’s proud military history.”Share