Celebrating 100 years of Hallmark card history

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Donna Teresa Monterey Herald

Updated: 02/09/2010 07:20:03 AM PST

I have interviewed many veterans about military life — especially during wartime. Memories and stories come forward as if they happened yesterday.

When I ask what helped make their time away from home so bearable, many answer, quite simply, the cards and letters they received from loved ones back home.

Times have changed. Much of that correspondence today is by e-mail and other electronic messaging. That’s not always been the case.

Postcards, greeting cards and letters have been a vital source of communication for military families during times of war and peacetime. They were essential to help families stay in touch.

If the contents carried good news, they were a great morale booster for troops during difficult times of combat and loss. Cards also were a source of comfort for military families enduring the tragedy of losing a loved one.

Letters and cards filled a void when days and nights were lonely and long separations were certain. To the troops, they were a welcome sight, letting them know they have not been forgotten.

Veterans tell me how special the cards, letters and pictures were when they received them far from home. It wasn’t just the card or piece of paper; it was the handwriting and words and pictures, which they would peruse over and over.

They would trace letters with their fingers because their girlfriend, wife, mother, father or kids had written them. For a moment, it was the closest thing to holding a hand or getting a hug or a kiss. One veteran told me he kissed the card he received from his wife so much that he wore a hole in it.

A scent of perfume, locks of hair from children, photos, homemade pictures, grains of dirt or sand, pieces of ribbon, lipstick imprints, hometown news clippings were items that often accompanied a card.

The cards found their way into helmets, airplanes, tanks and duffle bags. Cards were the connection for those who couldn’t be there for birthdays, weddings, graduations and other milestones.

And they’ve been kept for years, a special treasure tied in ribbons and placed in shoe boxes and other safe places. They became a piece of our immortality, a piece of history, and a special way of saying we care.

You can’t save every special phone call, but you can save a card or a letter. Thank you to Hallmark and other cardmakers for helping provide comfort and lifting the spirits of our troops and their families through the years.

This is dedicated to those who still believe in the art of writing letters, cards and postcards. You have helped ease burdens, made someone smile, and unintentionally created history by capturing a moment in time.

For better or worse, our history is what we are. We must remember and never forget. Cards and letters have certainly played a role in making sure we don’t.

Donna Teresa can be reached at donnateresa@sbcglobal.net.

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