Taking a few minutes away from campus tours and all the other activities that are part of New Student Orientation, some 6,000 new Bruins are putting pen to paper this summer to thank U.S. troops for their service overseas, part of a massive volunteer effort introducing them to UCLA’s commitment to public service.
“Even before you begin classes, you’re involved in a volunteer experience, and I think that says a lot about our values at UCLA,” Chancellor Gene Block told a group of students gathered at Ackerman Union Wednesday, before sitting down to write a letter to troops with his wife, Carol. “This is important. The soldiers will appreciate it, and it’s a great way to start the year.”
The letter-writing campaign was organized by the UCLA Volunteer Center in association with Operation Gratitude, a Van Nuys–based organization that helps send 100,000 care packages or letters to troops overseas each year. This is the second year UCLA has worked with the organization.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Randy Arambula, who works with UCLA’s ROTC program, said similar letters he received from total strangers while serving in Iraq meant a great deal to him.
“It was awesome getting letters and packages from people like yourselves,” he told a group of 60 incoming freshmen. “It was like Christmas. So congratulations on getting into UCLA. Go Bruins!”
The letters make a tremendous difference to many, said Antoinette Mongelli, executive director of UCLA’s Volunteer Center.
“For some members of the military, this is the only mail they get,” she said. “They can get pretty lonely and this really makes a difference.”
“I thought it was really cool,” said incoming freshman Connor Eichten of Santa Clarita, Calif., after he dropped his letter into a large cardboard box. “I’m very appreciative of the military.”