EVERYDAY PATRIOTS

Sending thanks to soldiers

mlucas@thestate.comJuly 5, 2012 

Brian Bohlman receives hundreds, sometimes thousands, of cards each month, though they aren’t for him.

It’s part of the work he does for Operation Thank You, a nonprofit group that sends thank-you cards to soldiers serving in faraway places, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Korea.

Bohlman started the organization 10 years ago, just after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, after receiving another card using a similar concept on inferior paper.

“I wanted to make something that was visually appealing that would last a long time,” he said.

So Bohlman, who also serves as a wing chaplain at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, set out to create a simple postcard-style thank-you note on high-quality paper. The postcards can be personalized with a handwritten message from the sender.

“We wanted to give average citizens an opportunity to thank soldiers,” he said.

Now, a decade later, the idea has grown.

To date, the Columbia-based organization, which is manned by a team of volunteers, has sent soldiers more than 1 million cards. They now come in themes, from the original thank you to a card for wounded warriors or Vietnam veterans.

Once someone completes a card, the staff of Operation Thank You will make sure it gets delivered. The nonprofit works with organizations and military bases all over the world.

Sometimes Bohlman delivers the cards himself.

Having recently returned from a three-month trip to Afghanistan, Bohlman delivered 1,500 get-well cards to soldiers in Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield.

Once, when Bohlman was stationed in Germany, a soldier there told him the hand-delivered card from someone in South Carolina was the best medicine he had received all day.

“He told me he was going to keep that card forever,” he said.

Reach Lucas at (803) 771-8657.

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