By Stacey Moncrieff, Editor in Chief, REALTOR® Magazine
Wendy and John Rocca are used to getting thank you letters from U.S. service men and women who’ve received “cheer boxes” via their Operation American Soldier campaign. Every letter is cherished, say the Roccas, real estate practitioners from Watertown, Mass. “Receiving letters from the men and women in harm’s way is rewarding to all our volunteers,” says Wendy Rocca.
But the couple will never forget the letter they received this week: It’s from General David H. Petraeus, commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.
“Please know I appreciate all you and your team do for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen,” Petraeus wrote in the letter dated in December 26, 2010, but just received by the Roccas via e-mail April 18. “I also send you special thanks for your family’s service to our Nation. Two sons and a daughter who have served our country during a time of war—amazing.”
The Roccas started Operation American Soldier in 2004 when their daughter Tracy, serving a tour of duty in Kuwait and Iraq, told them some of her fellow soldiers hadn’t received any mail at all. Since then, Operation American Soldier has sent thousands of care packages, enclosing personal letters as well as essentials and treats that soldiers can’t easily get while on active duty.
“To be recognized by the Commander in charge was a huge surprise!” Wendy says. “Receiving this letter from General Petraeus was extremely motivating and an honor for all involved.”
In 2010, the Roccas won REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Award for their continuing work to make sure “no soldier walks away from mail call empty-handed.” The award included a $10,000 grant toward Operation American Soldier, as well as a $2,000 gift card from sponsor Lowe’s. Subsequently, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® made a $100,000 donation to Operation American Soldier through its REALTORS® Relief Foundation.
REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Awards, sponsored by Lowe’s and HouseLogic, were founded in 2000 to recognize REALTORS® for exceptional community service. Over 11 years, the program — along with the companion Volunteering Works mentoring program sponsored by The Stuart & Jill Siegel Charitable Foundation — has been responsible for more than $800,000 in donations to winners’ charitable causes. REALTOR® Magazine is now accepting applications for the 2011 Good Neighbor Awards. Five winners and five honorable mentions will be named.