Local residents will have a chance to show support for sailors stationed in the Persian Gulf with Saturday's "Happy Thanksgiving from the Heart Day."
Visitors to the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza or Kansas University's football game can pen a message on large newsprint scrolls, which will be sent to sailors of four battlegroups who were deployed in the gulf after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The scrolls will read, "Happy Thanksgiving from the Heart of America, Lawrence, Kansas."
U.S. Navy veteran Gino DiSimone, a student at KU and contract driver for the Journal-World, came up with the idea, and the Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday officially proclaimed Saturday as "Happy Thanksgiving from the Heart Day.''
"The holiday time is really the most difficult time to be separated from your family, especially in a war zone," DiSimone said. "I don't think there's words to express it. When I was over there, it would have been nice if I could have gotten some support saying, we love you, wish you could be here, do well and come back soon."
DISIMONE hopes to collect about 1,000 signatures on each scroll.
"It helps the morale and it helps them perform with confidence," he said. "Their anxiety level goes down and the adrenaline level goes up when they know they're doing something the community really wants."
DiSimone said much of the publicity surrounding the Mideast conflict has focused on the soldiers, and he wanted to also offer community support for the sailors defending their country. He would have liked to send holiday scrolls to servicemen and servicewomen in all branches of the military, but his hectic schedule prevented such a time-consuming project.
"Hopefully, somebody who is interested in the other branches will see what we've done for the Navy and they'll do something else for the other branches of the military," he said.
Cmdr. Russ Conner, assistant professor of Navy ROTC at KU, will collect the scrolls and send them to four Navy commanders.
"IT WAS a fantastic idea," Conner said. "It really brightens their day and lifts their spirits. You can't imagine how isolated they are over there. They really appreciate any support from home and I think this community will be ready to add their support."
The scrolls will be available for signing from 3 p.m. to closing at the main entrance of the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza, and during pre-game and halftime of KU's football game against Colorado. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:10 p.m.