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Valentines for Veterans & First Responders

Congressman Denny Heck and local kids make cards to send to veterans and first responders this Valentine’s Day. Source: Tacoma News Tribune.

In 269 AD, a priest received thanks in the form of notes from those who did not want to serve in their empire’s military.

A congressman in 2013 began a drive to gather cards in order to thank those who serve this country and its communities.

The saint’s actions led to the creation of Valentine’s Day; the congressman’s initiative gave new meaning to the day.

Saint Valentine

There is more myth than fact surrounding this early Christian priest.

What is known of him centers on his willful defiance of a Roman emperor’s law and his eventual sainthood.

In 269, Emperor Claudius II banned marriages.  He issued the decree because the army needed soldiers, and many men were marrying to avoid serving.  

Valentine thought the law unjust, and in defiance of it he secretly performed marriages, thus making the new husbands unfit for duty.

For doing this, Claudius had Valentine arrested, tried, and condemned to death.

While awaiting his fate, many of the husbands whom he had helped avoid serving in the army sent him notes thanking him for his actions.

Valentine was executed on February 14, 269.

In time, Valentine’s death slowly became synonymous with marital love, and the giving of gifts to sweethearts and wives came into being.

By the beginning of the 16th century, cards with messages of love were given and received on February 14th.

This was most evident in Great Britain, which celebrated the day with the exchange of cards.

The idea of giving a loved one a Valentine’s Day cards eventually made its way to America, and the holiday became especially popular in grade schools.

The Honorable Denny Heck

A member of the House of Representatives since 2013, Heck advocates for children and veterans, among other issues.

Also in that year, Heck began the first “Valentines for Veterans” drive.  Its goal was for students in South Sound area schools of all grade levels and ages to make Valentine’s Day cards to be given to veterans serving both at home and overseas.

“I simply wanted to give the community the chance to thank our veterans,” Heck said at the time.

After the tragic Amtrak passenger train derailment in December 2017 near DuPont, WA, Heck learned that both local first responders and Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers had voluntarily responded to help the injured

“We’ve always done ‘Valentines for Veterans’ … but this year we added first responders,” Heck said in a February 2018 interview.

“The reason we have the ‘Valentines for Veterans and First Responders’ drive today is because of that train accident.  We had all these firefighters and ambulance drivers and police officers … jump into action, and it’s really important that we remember to thank them.”

The Saint received thanks in the form of written messages from those whom he had wed; his death eventually led to the creation of the day named for him.   

On the other hand, the Congressman’s desire to thank those who serve the American people led him to give new meaning to the day that honors veterans and first responders.

In their distinct ways, both men make this year’s “Valentines for Veterans and First Responders” drive a reality.


A student colors a Valentine’s Day card to thank a veteran or first responder for their service.

How to Participate

School districts and teachers wishing to join the drive can contact Heck’s Pierce County office at (253) 533-8332 for further information.

Students of all ages and grade levels are welcome to participate. They can drop off their Valentine’s Day cards at Congressman Heck’s district offices between 9 AM and 5 PM.

All cards must be received by Friday, February 8th.


Pierce County office: 6000 Main Street SW, Suite 3B Lakewood, WA 98499

Thurston/Mason County office: 420 College Street SE, Third Floor Lacey, WA 98503

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