Janine Stange is looking for a lot of people to acknowledge what a few people have obtained over the past 156 years.
Stange, who, in 2014, became the first person to perform the national anthem in all 50 states, is in her third year of asking people to write letters of appreciation to those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
"I didn't realize how many people wanted to do this," Stange said over the telephone from her Baltimore, Maryland, home.
Janine Stange performing the National Anthem for the 2016 National Medal of Honor Day gathering.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the military.
March 25th is National Medal of Honor Day. During the last week of March, recipients meet for an annual event in Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, Stange was invited to sing the national anthem at that gathering.
In the weeks leading up to the event, she had an idea. "I thought I would ask people if they wanted to write them," she said.
Just some of the packages and letters Janine has received to pass onto MOH recipients.
The response was encouraging.
During the first two years, Stange and event organizers reminded them of their service years. "We handed the letters out in packages, 'mail-call style,'" she said.
There are currently 72 living Medal of Honor recipients. The honor was first issued in 1863 and has been bestowed upon 3,505 recipients since. The oldest living recipient is Robert Maxwell, 98, who served in the Army in World War II. The youngest recipient is William Kyle Carpenter, 30, who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
"If they didn't have their medal on, you'd think you were talking to the nice guy in the neighborhood," Stange said about her moments getting to know the ones who have been honored. "They are so in awe that people take the time to write them. Many take time to write people back."
Stange said humility is a common trait among the recipients.
"This is an opportunity for people to learn about these selfless acts of valor. They were not thinking of their lives, but their buddies, and something bigger than themselves. They were not concerned about their own life, they were looking at future generations," Stange said.
Medal of Honor recipient Roger Donolon with some of the mail he's received via Ms. Stange.
Stange said she doesn't use the word "win" for a recipient.
"They don't 'win' this. It's not a contest. I don't say 'winner.' It's because of their selfless sacrifice."
In addition to the letters, Stange said people have included small gifts, ranging from pieces of art and carved crosses to postcards from the writers' homes and pieces of quilts.
"Don't limit it to letters. These small mementos make it feel very homegrown," she said.
Stange said the letter writing is open to anyone, from individuals to group leaders (school teachers, community organization leaders, sports coaches, businesses, etc). Those interested in leading a group in this project can go online to www.janinestange.com/moh - recipient(s) will be assigned to ensure an even distribution of letters.
Individuals can find a list of living recipients here, and pick those they'd like to write.
A classroom of students showing their cards for the MOH recipients.
On or before March 15, send letters to:
Medal of Honor Mail Call
ATTN: (Your Recipient's Name)
2400 Boston Street, Ste 102
Baltimore, MD 21224
Stange reminds letter writers to include their mailing address as the recipients may write back.
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