News Release: VVMF To Send New Year's Messages To Troops

16 December 2009

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) will be taping New Year’s greetings from the public to the troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq before its annual Christmas Tree Ceremony at The Wall.

The Christmas Tree Ceremony is open to members of the public, who are welcome at the East Knoll near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 21, to tape a message for the troops prior to the 10 a.m. ceremony. Messages will air on the Pentagon Channel, which is broadcast to troops overseas, from the last week of December through New Year’s Day.

“More than any other, the Vietnam generation understands how important it is to support our troops,” said Jan C. Scruggs, VVMF founder and president. “In this Christmas season, this is our way of expressing our gratitude and remembering the brave service members who will be serving our country overseas during the holiday season.”

Tom Selleck, the national spokesman for VVMF’s campaign to build The Education Center at The Wall, has also taped a New Year’s message for the troops, which will be aired along with those from members of the public. In his message, Selleck expresses his gratitude to America’s service members stationed overseas and stresses how the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the future Education Center at The Wall, are committed to paying tribute to those who have served our country.

In addition to the taped messages, VVMF has also gathered written greetings to send to the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Approximately 6,700 cards were donated to Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit volunteer organization that sends more than 100,000 care packages each year to individual U.S. service members deployed in hostile regions. The care packages include snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation, such as those contributed by VVMF. The greetings were sent in by friends and supporters of VVMF located all around the United States.

The messages to the troops, both taped and written, are the newest addition to a VVMF holiday tradition: the annual Christmas Tree Ceremony at The Wall. Each year, volunteers bring a tree to The Wall and decorate it with handmade ornaments and messages from school children around the country. This year’s tree will be brought in from a tree farm in New London, Pa.

The featured speaker at Monday’s ceremony will be Maj. Gen. Kelly K. McKeague, USAF, assistant for National Guard matters to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Also speaking will be Brian Thacker, who received the Medal of Honor in 1971 when he was serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army in Kontum Province, Vietnam.

Representatives of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will take part in the ceremony. A blessing will be offered by Rev. William E. Calbert of Shiloh Baptist Church, Washington, D.C. Rev. Calbert is a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

At the end of the ceremony, participants will choose a message to read aloud before moving to the apex of The Wall, where the tree will be placed and decorated with messages and handmade ornaments. The tree is usually left at The Wall for a week, depending on the weather, along with a box of additional greetings and ornaments. Visitors to The Wall during the holidays are welcome to read the greetings and place one on the tree.

This year’s Christmas Tree Ceremony is sponsored by Xerox. TV Worldwide will tape the messages to the troops, as well as the ceremony itself, and make both available on its Internet TV channel, Additional support for the troop greetings and filming of the ceremony was provided by Base Technologies, Inc.

The annual Christmas Tree Ceremony is open to the public. Anyone who would like to tape a New Year’s message for the troops is encouraged to get to the East Knoll early. Messages will be taped from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and should be 10-20 seconds long. They will be available later in the week on the Internet and will begin airing to the troops overseas the last week of December. To see the taped messages, visit

Operation Gratitude
Operation Gratitude is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit volunteer organization that annually sends 100,000+ care packages to individual U.S. service members deployed in hostile regions. Its mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member's face and express the appreciation and support of the American people to all armed forces members. By the end of 2009, Operation Gratitude will have shipped more than 500,000 packages to American military personnel deployed overseas.

About VVMF
Established in 1979, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., promoting healing and educating about the impact of the Vietnam War. Authorized by Congress, its most recent initiative is building The Education Center at The Wall, an underground facility near the Memorial that is designed to add faces to all the names on The Wall and tell their stories. Other Memorial Fund initiatives include educational programs for students and teachers, a traveling Wall replica that honors our nation's veterans and a humanitarian and mine-action program in Vietnam.
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