Taking care of our troops

Bob Schluete, left, Elizabeth Guisti, left center, and Teresa Bates along with Nick Valachovic, right, Sheila Wood, right center and Wendy Harrington sign Christmas cards for deployed soldiers Thursday night at the Hotel Broadabin. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

BROADALBIN —Brian Burrell sat down at a table Thursday night at the Hotel Broadalbin and, along with a group of approximately 20 other people, started signing Christmas cards.

The cards did not have addresses on them yet, but they will find their way to soldiers who are deployed overseas this Christmas thanks to the help of the event hosted by the Sacandaga Valley Community Preparedness Team.

“These guys are doing what they never did for us in Vietnam,” Burrell, a Vietnam vet (1965-66) from Hagaman, said. “They are basically doing what was never done for us. It is unbelievable. They got me involved in doing the cards.”

Anthony Ruggerio of the Amsterdam Veterans Commission also was on hand to lend support for the project.

“We are bringing the support from the Veterans Commission because we have been down this road before,” he said.

The group met last year and signed more than 1,000 cards, a goal Sacandaga Community Preparedness Team president Dave Bardascini said they are looking to top this year.

“Last year we had about six people sign but we did a lot of cards,” Bardascini said. “Tonight we have about 18 to 24 people here to sign. Everybody is coming together. There is even a six-year-old signing cards. The reports we get is that the troops really like getting something from the kids.”

The cards will be distributed with the help of the Veterans Miracle Center in Albany.

“Melody Burns has been doing this project for several years and we have been helping her,” Bardascini said. “We take them to the Veterans Miracle Center, which is a great organization. They get sorted so that they don’t get 20 cards signed by one person in one box. They make sure they are mixed up and package them. They have a group that comes in and decorates the boxes with Christmas stuff. Last year she sent out 200,000 cards and this year she is pushing for 300,000. Any place we have troops, they go. It is really something for those who can’t be home for the holidays.”

The cards and boxes are treated with honor as they are transported to the post office for delivery overseas.

“One of the gentlemen has a deuce-and-a-half truck and all the boxes get loaded in there and get a police and fire escort to the post office,” Bardascini said. “They have a survivor there from the Battle of The Bulge. When they unload the boxes from the truck, in a fire-brigade-like-line from the truck to the post office, he actually touches every box.”

The cards are made available free of charge to anyone who wishes to take part in the signing thanks to donations and a little thriftiness.

“We collect cards all year long and put it out there sporadically during the year for anybody to come and sign,” Bardascini said. “Something for Everyone in Amsterdam donated a ton of stuff. After Christmas we go to the stores and will buy the cards at a reduced price. Dave and Zoe Thompson here at the hotel are also on board.”

Another project the group is helping to promote is the Wreaths Across America project that coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as more than 1,200 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea, and abroad on December 16.

“We have been pushing to get people to donate. It is $15 per wreath and this year we are up to 34 percent coverage,” Bardascini said. “People can donate through WreathsacrossAmerica.org. or they can get a hold of me and I have the forms they can mail. We ask them to support our cemetery, and fill in the part that says Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery, but it is their choice where they would like to have a wreath placed.”


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