Wounded soldiers are recipients of unique holiday mission

Heath artist Anne Marwick is surrounded by holiday cards she collects and sends to the troops in her home.

Recorder/Franz Heath artist Anne Marwick is surrounded by holiday cards she collects and sends to the troops in her home. Purchase photo reprints »

HEATH — Anne Marwick saw a photograph of U.S. soldiers crossing a bridge in Iraq eight years ago and she couldn’t get the image out of her mind.

So, she painted it and copies of that painting ended up hanging in the Boston Globe building and on the walls of buildings on a couple of military bases.

“They seemed to be yelling in the photograph and I could hear them,” said the now 82-year-old Marwick. “It haunted me.”

She said that all led to her, with the help of her husband, writing wounded soldiers holiday cards that same year.

“I had to do something,” she said. “I couldn’t forget. I felt like those men in the picture were telling me to do something.”

Marwick said she was so bothered by the photograph and the watercolor painting she had done of it, that she decided she wanted to connect somehow with U.S. troops.

“They do so much for us, I thought we needed to do something for them,” she said.

Marwick said it was a colonel in the military stationed in Maryland who she was talking to about the painting, when he suggested she start sending cards.

“So, I set it up with some military hospitals and I’ve been sending cards ever since,” she said.

Today, Marwick and her husband send out about 3,100 cards per year to 11 military hospitals across the country.

She said she started eight years ago by buying about 500 cards and she and her husband wrote in each one and sent them out at their expense.

Today, they still pay for postage, but after connecting with Irmarie Jones at The Recorder several years ago, Recorder readers now donate the cards.

She said they have collected about 1,000 this year and are hoping to reach 3,000 before they leave for Florida for the winter in two weeks.

“We pass them around to students in our schools and schools in Florida, and to adults we meet,” she said. “They write little notes in all of them and then the hospitals hand them out to the wounded, most of whom are amputees.”

Marwick said the cards are sent as far away as California, Florida and Maryland. She said they are sent in about 20 to 25 boxes each year.

Marwick and her husband check every message before cards are sent. She said children always write the “nicest messages,” but some adults have written nasty or negative notes.

“Very few, but we don’t want them getting through,” she said. “These guys need encouragement, not hate. Most of the messages are for a happy holiday and hope for a quick recovery.”

Marwick said a lot of children draw pictures for the wounded.

To help Marwick’s efforts, drop off unused holiday cards (non-religious) to Anita Fritz at The Recorder, 14 Hope St., Greenfield, or send money for postage to Anne Marwick, 902 Waterway Drive, Barefoot Bay, FL 32976.

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