By: Jennifer Cohn, Youth Programs Development Assistant, AmeriCorps VISTA
In commemoration of the 11th anniversary of September 11th, AmeriCorps members were invited to participate in various 9/11 Day of Service projects (www.911day.org) throughout New York City. I volunteered for The Mission Continues (www.missioncontinues.org) in a letter writing campaign to deployed service members, veterans and their families. We also assembled personal care kits to be distributed to families in need.
I was completely overwhelmed when, upon arriving, I was instructed to sit down and write a letter of appreciation or encouragement to an active serviceperson, veteran, family member or Mission Continues fellow. Every time I began a letter my words sounded cliché or insincere. One of the volunteers, a former Marine saw my frustration and offered his advice. He told me not to write overly sentimental letters putting the serviceperson on a pedestal. Rather, I should write as I would to anyone, about topics everyone can relate to. After that, I wrote to the servicemen and women about the town in Rhode Island I grew up in, about graduating from college and moving to New York, and about my irrational support of the Yankees (despite my New England heritage).
I hope that a serviceperson does receive and find enjoyment in one of my letters. I appreciated being given the opportunity to volunteer for the letter writing campaign. While the anniversary of a tragedy is inevitably a time of mourning, participating in the 9/11 Day of Service made me realize that sometimes a more comforting method of remembrance is to reach out and connect with others, in your immediate community and beyond.