Teacher enlists students to send Christmas care packages to veterans overseas: 'It's important not to forget'

Alex Lasker

When New Jersey teacher Michelle Lombardi's boyfriend was deployed nearly four years ago, she wanted to find a way to make him feel like he was right at home when Christmas rolled around, even though he was thousands of miles away.

So, she sent him a holiday-themed care package, full of all of his favorite things, to make the distance between them feel smaller.

"During the holidays, so many soldiers are away from home," she told In The Know. "It's important not to forget that those people are overseas fighting for us and they don't get to be with our families this time of year."

Knowing many of her students were the children of veterans, Lombardi decided to enlist them to help her run the Christmas in Camouflage project, which sends hundreds of care packages to servicemen and women overseas every holiday season. 

"I think the fact that we're able to all come together in such a beautiful way and share some of that warmth with the people who don't get to experience that this time of year, it's really special," she said.

Lombardi explained that a week before Christmas each year, representatives from the Barnegat, N.J., chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars come by her classroom to pick up all the packages she and her students create. 

With help from Operation Yellow Ribbon, a New Jersey-based non-profit that helps collect and ship items donated to U.S. Troops stationed in foreign countries, the care packages are then shipped all over the world.

"It means a lot to (the troops) that people care about what they're doing for this country and for the people of our country," veteran Frank Healey told In The Know. "I know the smile this is going to put on these veterans' faces overseas."

But the program is not just lifting spirits overseas — it's changing the lives of those within the school community, as well.

"My son did receive a care package from our school, which is very exciting and showed that we were thinking about him at home," said Stacey Rose, whose son is currently serving in the military. 

Watch the full episode of In The Know: Holiday Heroes above to learn more.