Mr. Speaker, it's the most wonderful time of the year. Families across the fruited plain decorate their houses with red and green lights, hang ornaments on their trees, and think about new recipes to spice up this year's menu. Holiday party invitations flow in, carolers line the neighborhood streets at night, everybody is in the holiday spirit. In the midst of all the cheer, we are reminded that many families are sitting down this year to a table with an empty chair. They are not together because their loved ones (our American warriors) are oceans away from their families, fighting for the rest of us.
They say the worst casualty of war is to be forgotten. In our community we have a tradition to make sure that our men and women overseas know that we will never forget them. For seven straight years, Texans from the Second Congressional District and beyond have joined forces and collected handmade Christmas cards from the community to send overseas to our military. People from young school children to community leaders contribute, and this joint effort makes my annual Christmas Cards for Troops drive a success. Whether they are students, teachers, area Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, churches, and non-profits, they have been relentless in their efforts to express how grateful they are for our men and women on the front lives of battle by decorating and personalizing holiday cards for the troops. In my opinion, there's no better way than spreading the joy of the holidays overseas to the ones that can't be with their families for Christmas dinner and unwrapping gifts from under the tree. Each year is better than the last.
There is no greater sight than watching our troops open up the colorful, heartwarming cards. It wasn't until a few years ago that I witnessed firsthand what it means to them. One year, I decided to pack my bags and visit the Landstuhl Military Base in Germany, a hub for wounded Americans who come from Afghanistan and Iraq. With me, I carried two suitcases full of 6,000 handmade cards piled high from third, fourth, and fifth graders of the Second Congressional District.
I checked one of my suitcases but decided to carry on the smaller of the two. The temptation to read the cards overtook me. I couldn't hold back so about half way through the flight, I opened the bag and began reading some of the cards. Curiosity sparked the person in the seat next to me so I shared a few of the cards with him. Then the person next to him wanted to see the cards, too. Before I knew it, the whole plane was reading them. The cards were being passed up and down the aisles, and some tears were shed. You wouldn't believe the kind words written in those cards by these Texas school children.
When I arrived at the base and hand-delivered these cards, I was amazed to see what they meant to our troops. They didn't personally know the child who the card was from but every one of them read it and smiled proudly at the words of support. Soon, nurses were scrambling to tape as many cards as they could to the hospital walls above their beds. Red, green, yellow, and blue cards were decorated with snowmen, gingerbread men, candy canes, menorahs, or even their favorite football team. There is something about a homemade card that doesn't compare to anything else, especially when it's from a child.
This year was our most successful card drive yet with a record-breaking collection of 113,000 cards. A special thank you City of Baytown, Goose Creek CISD, Humble ISD, Spring ISD, Huffman ISD, Klein ISD, Cy Fair ISD, Spring Branch ISD, as well as area Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, local churches and non-profits. It could not have been done without them.
In a few weeks, hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines will open up their packages from Operation Interdependence, along with their holiday card from a fellow Texan. Although the military member has never met the child or person on the other side of the world who took the time to create the card, there is nothing like receiving the holiday cheer from the land of the free and home of the brave.
And that's just the way it is.