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Local student says thanks to military

Thousands of military service members will receive a personal expression of gratitude in 2021 thanks to the inspiration and dedication of a Smithfield High School graduate who is now at the University of Virginia.

Taylor Curro was part of the Beta Club during her senior year at Smithfield High. That year, they did a small thank-you notes project — about 170 cards. They sent half of the cards to Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit that supports military members and first responders.

Curro has a firsthand connection to the military.

“I was actually born at Langley AFB, and both my parents were Air Force. My mom is now retired, but my dad is still in the Air Force. So I’ve moved all over the country and I eventually did end up back here in Virginia really close to where I was born. I moved to Carrollton the summer before freshman year of high school and have lived in the area since.”

Last year, Operation Gratitude launched a challenge — do something positive 2,020 times. She decided to take part by writing 2,020 cards to troops deployed overseas.

“My original plan was to just make the cards and then go out into the community, go to the schools and collect responses, have the kids write the cards,” she said. “But then COVID kind of put a damper on things because the schools closed and everything was online and so there wasn’t a way for me to safely gather those responses like I wanted to. So I had to improvise.”

What Carro did instead was make an online survey that people from the community could fill out to create their own personalized message, and then she took them and hand wrote them onto the cards.

“I received all different types of messages,” she said. “Some people were military children, some people had no affiliation to the military. One woman, her son is currently in Afghanistan. Just all sorts of different people from different walks of life. I had some general ‘thank you for your service, thank you for your sacrifice for our country’ but then I had some cards that just really kind of went into detail, into depth and were just really personalized.”

Then Carro spent about 100 hours handwriting messages on all the cards.

“For the entire month of December, I wrote the cards. I averaged about 100 cards per day, and the final day I was writing was actually Christmas, and I wrote 400 cards in 24 hours,” Carro said.

Operation Gratitude will distribute the cards to the troops, and that process is in progress.

Carro, who would like to ultimately become a doctor and possibly create or work in a nonprofit that supports military veterans and their families, is also a finalist for the Military Child of the Year Award. That honor is presented by another nonprofit, Operation Homefront.

Her perspective and advice for military kids?

“You’re living through a very unique experience and you may not know it now but you are gaining the experience and skills and traits that you’ll be able to use in your future life and you should just kind of appreciate that,” Carro said. “I know it’s hard now, but it does get better.”