For The Troops in the VC Star

For The Troops was in the Local section of the Ventura County Star on November 15, 2015. The article written by Alicia Doyle, is shown below.

“Thank you for all you do for America” were the first words Rachel Oh wrote in a Christmas card to an American service member overseas.

“May this holiday season and the upcoming New Year bring you … health and inner peace,” the 16-year-old wrote.

The student at Cleveland High School in Reseda was among about a half dozen of her peers who spent Saturday writing in Christmas cards to be included in care packages sent to American military men and women around the world.

Rachel, a member of her school’s For the Troops chapter, was among numerous volunteers writing words of encouragement during the annual Christmas card signing event at For the Troops, which is based in Simi Valley.

“They spend so much time protecting us, it’s the least we can do,” said Shilpa Nath, 16, president of the chapter at Cleveland High.

About 2,500 cards will be mailed in care packages this holiday season, said Paula Cornell, of Simi Valley, who founded For the Troops in 2006. Since then, 137,000 packages have been mailed year-round.

“This is our eighth annual Christmas card signing, and we couldn’t do it alone without your support,” Cornell told the crowd gathered in a room at Sycamore Plaza for the event. “Thank you very much for coming out and showing your appreciation for our troops and remembering our troops don’t just go there for Christmas; they go all year long.”

The care packages will be mailed to Afghanistan, South Korea and other places where Americans are serving this country, she said.

“They go wherever there’s a deployed unit,” Cornell said. “Even though we’re not at war, we have deployed troops all over the world, and we always will.”

The Christmas cards will be included in packages that contain items including magazines, books, sunflower seeds, baby wipes, deodorant, toothpaste and a toothbrush.

Linda Landau, a volunteer with For the Troops, said each package is full of love.

“This is not political; it is humanitarian,” said Landau, of Tarzana. “I don’t care if you think we should be there or not. They are, and we need to let them know that we appreciate them.”

Sally Valderrama, of Simi Valley, wrote in a Christmas card: “Stay safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

“Our servicemen and women are very important to America,” said Valderrama, a volunteer with For the Troops. “They aren’t appreciated like they should be.”

Her husband, Ray, is also a volunteer with the organization. He served in the Coast Guard from 1966 to 1969 during the Vietnam War.

In a card, he wrote: “Thank you for keeping us safe and free here at home. May God bless you and keep you safe until you return home.”

“I just want to let them know that we really appreciate them being over there and what they’re doing,” he said. “We get feedback from them, and it means a lot. They’re very gracious. They say it’s a great surprise and it reminds them of home.”

Those the military are making the ultimate sacrifice, especially since they voluntarily join, he said.

“When I was in, there was a draft,” he said, noting that he volunteered for the military in the 1960s. “Now, it being totally a volunteer force, you have to appreciate them for making a commitment like that.”

Learn more: Visit or call 306-0830 for more information about For the Troops.

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