Thousands Participate in Service Event to Benefit US Troops Overseas

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States has become more than a day of reflection for the slain civil rights leader.  This year, President-elect Barack Obama encouraged Americans to take part in a national day of community service to commemorate the memory of Reverend King.  At one service event in Washington where thousands of people felt the need to serve.

Crowds of people streamed in and out of a heated tent inside the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial stadium to put together packages for U.S. military personnel serving overseas.  The event was organized by the District of Colombia's Commission on National and Community Service.  It allowed local residents and people from out of town to assemble 75,000 kits containing food and personal items for soldiers.

Carolyn Blashek is the founder of Operation Gratitude, which helped organize the event.  Her California-based non-profit group has sent more than 400,000 packages abroad to men and women in uniform since 2003.

"The call to service has really moved people to look for ways that they can do their part," said Carolyn Blashek. "The reason I started Operation Gratitude is I wanted to serve in the military and I was too old.  And so I found that there has got to be another way to serve."

Several high profile names stopped by the event to show their support, including soon-to-be first lady Michelle Obama.  Mrs. Obama often has said she would like to use her role as first lady to help American military families.

Later on in the day, U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut came with his family to lend a hand.  Dodd said his inspiration to serve came from President John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural speech, which called on young Americans to serve their country.

"If you ask, people will come," said Senator Dodd. "But you've got to ask.  I've been asked a million times why did I join the Peace Corps.  The only answer I've ever given for 40 years is somebody asked me to, an American President asked me.  And a bunch of us all of a sudden either joined the military, went to the Peace Corps, became teachers, volunteered to do things, because an American President was sincere and he asked.  We haven't had anybody really ask us in a long time.  But if you ask, they will come."

Many volunteers echoed this call to serve.

A native Washingtonian, Rita Reynolds, said that after campaigning for Barack Obama for 19 months, this was just another way to show her support.

"Obama has a way of getting people mobilized to the point where not only can he get them out to volunteer, but throughout the whole process it's been a caring, sharing, organized experience," said Rita Reynolds.

Organizers estimate that some 15,000 people participated in Monday's event.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs