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Sending a message in a deck of cards

This poster, designed at no cost by graphic designer and illustrator Ron Costa of Jefferson, and first unveiled on Oct. 12 on the Jefferson town hall stage, is on all the decks of playing cards that 2,500 N. H. service men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will find in their Christmas gift boxes on Dec. 25. (Photo by Edith Tucker) (click for larger version)
November 11, 2009
JEFFERSON — "'We care' — that's the Christmas Day message from the 11 students at the Kid's Connection school on Meadows Road; that's the message from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion veterans; and that's the message from our town and our state," explained Bonnie Hicks, who runs what is, in essence, a private one-room schoolhouse on Meadows Road (Route 115A) for youngsters in kindergarten to grade 6.

It was on Columbus Day that local veterans, including District 8 N. H. Commander Maurice Anderson came to Jefferson to pick up tightly packed cardboard cartons of 2,500 specially designed and printed playing cards to be included in Christmas packages. The packages will go to Granite State service men and women who will spend the holiday in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The idea for the project bubbled up from the Memorial Day celebration that Ms. Hicks and the Kid's Connection had put on in May at the Jefferson town hall. One of the youngsters read aloud a well-known traditional poem that dates back to at least 1788 that is in the public domain, "The Deck of Cards." Its first lines, "The Ace reminds me that there is but one God. The Deuce that the Bible is divided into two parts: the Old and the New Testaments. The Trey reminds me of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Other references include those to the Four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and Noah, his wife, and their three sons and their wives as well as number references, such as that there are 52 cards in a deck, just as there are 52 weeks in a year.

Once they heard this poem, the students, their families, and the veterans all thought it would be a wonderful idea to send playing cards to New Hampshire's "Patriots" — the men and women serving our country in war zones to preserve our freedoms, Commander Anderson explained in an e-mail exchange. "When she found out that there are 2,500 such men and women, Ms. Hicks set right to work to find sufficient funds for such a project," he recalled. "She was unfazed, really undaunted by that number," Commander Anderson said.

One donor, who has chosen to remain anonymous, wrote a check for the full $4,000 needed to print that many custom-designed playing cards, Ms. Hicks said.

Ron Costa of Sign & Design of Jefferson, a Navy veteran himself, donated his designs for the cards and two card-sized explanatory inserts, and also created posters depicting the front and back of the individual playing-card boxes.

"Ron Costa included the shape of the state of New Hampshire and the state flag, with the frigate Raleigh," Ms. Hicks marveled.

"The Kid's Connection students sat on stage at the town hall at the Columbus Day presentation, with all the boxes of cards lined up in front of them, Commander Anderson said. "Robert Herman from the Whitefield VFW offered the opening prayer, and everyone, including several veterans of the VFW and the American Legion, recited the Pledge of Allegiance."

American Legion District 8 Commander, Anderson presented Ms. Hicks with a letter of appreciation for all her hard work and then presented all the students with a MooreMart lapel pin.

It is under the auspices of the American Legion's MooreMart (www.mooremart.org) program that all the decks of cards will reach the servicemen and women in the MooreMart Christmas box shipment.

"The kids then asked that all the veterans come up on stage where the students presented each one with a deck of cards," Mr. Anderson said. "Then we sang, "God Bless America," and a student played 'Taps.'

"The students brought out all the boxes in a little red wagon, ready to place them the vehicle that would transport them to the MooreMart shipping point. The Christmas boxes will be sent out this week or next to APO addresses, using the U. S. Post Office."

Many members of the Hicks family, just like so many others in Jefferson and the North Country, have proudly served the U.S.A, and Ms. Hicks' husband, Forrest, won the Silver Star for his actions during the Vietnam War.

"The question is not political, not whether any particular action is the right one," Ms. Hicks mused. "We all just want New Hampshire men and women to understand that we are proud of them, proud of and grateful for their service, and wish them and their families the very best."

Martin Lord and Osman
Salmon Press
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