Giving thanks

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For some Americans, helping fight a war means picking up a gun.

For Marquette students, it could mean picking up Ramen noodles.

Operation Gratitude, which began Monday and ends April 21, is a project to create and send care packages and letters to soldiers stationed in Iraq, Kuwait, Korea, Afghanistan, Kosovo and other foreign areas.

Anyone can drop off letters of support or care package items like decks of cards, pens, packs of stationary and non-perishable packaged food products at the Naval and Army ROTC units in the Old Gym from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through April 21. Contributions will also be collected at the Alumni Memorial Union lobby on the second floor from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 6, 13 and 20. Unsealed letters of support can also be deposited in several Operation Gratitude boxes around campus.

Lauren Twohig, an Arts & Sciences senior in ROTC, was the main coordinator of the project.

"These men and women are risking their lives for us and we as university students and individuals should support them regardless of whether we believe in what they're doing," Twohig said. "It's important to remind students that there are people our age risking their lives every day, that they don't have the opportunity to skip class and sleep in. Just something that insignificant to us like writing a letter or gum is something small to remind them that there are people thinking about them."

Other organizers of the project said the program would make life a little easier for troops overseas.

"It's a good way to show support for our fellow citizens and to let them know they're in our thoughts, that we want them to come home safely," said Timothy Ratzlaff, a College of Engineering senior and ROTC student. "It's good for morale. We feel it's a really great item for the troops. Some of our friends are deployed so it's kind of a personal thing."

"Being in the army ROTC, there's a possibility that I'm going to be in the army," said Tiffany Bilderback, a biomedical engineering junior and ROTC student. "They're over there to keep our freedom. Anything we can do to show our appreciation and support is beyond worthwhile."

Twohig said she wanted to send a care package and was looking for an address online when she stumbled on the Operation Gratitude Web site. She then helped organize several army, air force and navy ROTC program members to help with Operation Gratitude at Marquette.

Operation Gratitude is a non-profit organization collecting care package items like toiletries, entertainment products and other necessities. The organization also gathers letters of support and donations to troops deployed over seas. More information is available at www.opgratitude.com.

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