Of all the tributes, of all the memorials that play out when a fallen service member is returned to his or her native soil, perhaps it is the words "Thank you," that can mean the most to a grieving family.
They're just two words, relatively short, one syllable each. But put together into that simple phrase, they allow perfect strangers a chance to comfort families undergoing the most agonizing period in their lives.
Area residents will get the opportunity to send a personal note to family members of fallen American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at a special card-signing event to be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Schwartz Center for the Arts. The event is sponsored by the Schwartz Center, the Dover Post, Clear Channel Radio and Chick-fil-A North Dover.
It also is in connection with the performance of the U.S. Army's Jazz Ambassadors band, which will present a free performance Nov. 12 at the Schwartz. Unfortunately, all of the tickets to the show already have been distributed.
In the past, these personal cards of thanks have been presented at the Fisher House on Dover Air Force Base when family members journey to the base to receive the remains of their loved ones.
The Fisher House is a national organization that has built and maintains a lodging facility where family members can stay overnight. The on-base campus also houses the Center for the Families of the Fallen, where families can gather in private and receive counseling services before and after their loved ones' remains are returned to the United States.
The cards the public have signed in the past have been an important part of the reception given those families, said Schwartz Center Executive Director Sylvia Cowell.
"Several years ago, we created cards like these for the Fisher House and for the Families of the Fallen," she said. Since then, many of the family members passing through Dover have said they have found great comfort in these expressions of support from ordinary citizens, Cowell said.
The front of each card says simply, "In support of the Families of the Fallen," with the inside left blank so people can express their thoughts.
"Anyone can come in and write a message on the inside and then sign it," Cowell said. "This way, we can thank them for the service of their family members."
Refreshments will be offered in one of the rooms upstairs, where people may leave a monetary donation to the Fisher House, if they so desire.
There is ample parking around the Schwartz Center for anyone to come by and sign the cards, Cowell said.
She hopes the people of Dover will come by and support this effort, Cowell said.
Page 2 of 2 - "It's just our way of showing support and also thanks to our nation's military families," she said.