Remembering Those Who Serve this Valentine’s Day

By Jennifer Hanes, D.O.

Valentines day for soldiersThe coveted Valentine’s Day gift is validation we are important.   That we matter.  Whether or not you are in favor of the obligatory holiday, it marks the acknowledgement by friends and loved ones that we make a difference in their lives.  This truth is the same for us all.  And although most of us will be acknowledged on Cupid’s favorite day, some of those who need a valentine the most have been forgotten.  Our soldiers.

If you know a soldier, you can give them the best valentine ever.  Let them know they are not forgotten and how much their sacrifice means.

This week I made my very first “care package” and I was overwhelmed with what a positive experience it turned out to be.  I learned of a co-worker at my hospital was deployed, and had NEVER received a box from home.  I had erroneously thought those people I know and work with, had loved ones sending them goodies on a regular basis.  As I thought about it, however, I realized not only can it be expensive to send packages, but those loved ones stateside are often doing their best just to keep the home fires burning.  (And to address the potential issue of cost of shipping you can save on expense as most military addresses qualify for the United States Post Office flat rate.)

If you are unsure of what to send, you can often e-mail them or ask their family members what items are requested.  It seems the top of most lists contain powdered drink mixes, beef jerky and toiletry items.  There are lots of websites to offer suggestions and packing hints.  If you do not know a soldier, you can click here to find men and women you would like to gift with your support.

For my care package I wanted to look for something unique that might be overlooked on some lists.  As I began my search, I walked around the store looking for items that I would miss if I was overseas serving our country.  I suddenly became aware that not only was I fortunate to be safe and secure in a stateside store,  but I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the very simple things in my life.  I suddenly felt appreciative that my clothes were clean and I was freshly showered.  As I shopped I tried to imagine what life would be like when a simple cup of coffee is considered a luxury.  Not a cappuccino or latte, but an item as simple as a plain cup of coffee makes the wish list of many soldiers.  These are the men and women that sat with us six months ago eating cheeseburgers and fries carefree at home, but now were elated to have a simple cup of coffee while facing unthinkable dangers abroad.

My children helped pack the boxes and made valentines for our heroes.  No matter your personal feelings about the country’s military engagements, this is an opportunity to teach our children about the heroes that make great sacrifices to keep us safe at home.  It was also an opportunity to talk about geography with my children and find our soldier’s location on the map.  We studied the region and the weather and imagined how he and his fellow heroes spend their days.

In an exercise I thought was about making a soldier feel appreciated, I learned lessons far beyond how to buy supplies and ship it to our servicemen. I learned how many aspects of my life are made up of luxuries that we all take for granted.  I learned how giving is truly better than receiving.  And I learned how blessed I am to have been born in a country with both freedom and safety.  It created a sense of peace within and the joy spread to my friends and co-workers who were now inspired  to send their own packages.

In all probability, your package will not arrive by Valentine’s Day, but that will make it no less special.  If you want to experience the great love of giving, and love of country a heart filled care package is the ultimate gift on Valentine’s Day or truly any day of the year!


A board certified emergency physician, Jennifer Hanes, D.O., discovered that patients have greater success when they understand their bodies.  With that unique philosophy, she founded Empowered Medicine, PLLC, where knowledge is powerful medicine.  She empowers patients with her articles, motivational speeches and private consultations.  You can learn more at

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