- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2003

A huge welcome awaits injured troops at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northwest on their return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s a 4-by-8 card, developed by Operation Troop Support.

“I wished that I could send the troops greeting cards. I needed something to show the community spirit — America loves its troops,” said Army veteran Bob Zimmerman, who started the program with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Venango County Veterans Coalition in northwestern Pennsylvania.

The card had 1,000 signatures before being brought to the center, where Capt. Andras Marton of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division accepted it on behalf of the armed forces.

“One of the injured soldiers was very emotional as the card was carried in,” said Barbara Green of the American Red Cross.

“Two of the young men from one of the [soldiers] families actually helped carry in the card into the hospital,” she added. “I believe it really helped to boost the morale of everyone there.”

The card now sits in the lobby of the Mologne House Hotel, the on-base facility for recovering soldiers.

The card is covered with such simple messages as “God Bless You,” “Be safe” and “Thank You,” but it had a strong effect on a soldier with back and internal injuries from the Iraq war.

“It just makes you feel good,” the soldier said.

The front of the card is embossed with images of a bald eagle, a flag and the word “freedom.”

The inside reads, “Thank you for your service to our great country with much love from your fellow Americans of northwestern Pennsylvania. God Bless you and hurry home.”

“The whole thing is beautiful, but what touched me the most were the letters we received … from the kids as we arrived and saw the card,” said Sgt. Reginald Williams, who recently returned from Afghanistan.

“It’s just like a Hallmark card all the way down to the bar code on the back,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

It took volunteers, with the help of Pro Design Printing & Graphics, nearly 72 hours of nonstop work to build the card.

Since the card signing in March, Mr. Zimmerman and the group have continuously sent care packages to the troops overseas.

“I don’t have any loved ones in the war, but in a sense they are all our loved ones,” he said.

Mr. Zimmerman says his dedication to the project should come as no surprise to those who know him well.

“I’ve been involved in this sort of thing since the ‘80s, when I managed a patriotic rock band,” he said.

“My mission and the mission of Operation Troop Support is to be dedicated to serving those who serve in the armed forces of the United States.”

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