In Their Honor

Many remember our nation’s veterans only on specific national holidays. Entrepreneurs like Dominique Martucci have found ways to honor them in their everyday lives.

When Dominique Martucci started Operation Caramel Corn four years ago, she never realized that her biggest concern would be not being able to cook enough of the sticky treat. With the Iraq War beginning and Martucci locked in her own personal battle, she was praying for something that she could do that would help to ease her pain.

While watching the news one day, she kept seeing the same scene: Frightened mothers were sending their children to an unknown fate on the other side of the world. As the owner of Naper Nuts and Sweets, a small candy store in downtown Naperville, Illinois, she thought it would be nice to send care packages including bags of the store’s caramel corn to the soldiers serving in the Middle East. Every Friday since the war in Iraq began, Martucci and her employees have filled 1,000 red, white, and blue cellophane bags with caramel corn along with other items on the soldiers’ wish lists and shipped them to the men and women serving overseas.

Today, Martucci can hardly believe the support that she has received from local individuals and businesses for the project. One of Martucci’s customers came to her three years ago
and asked what she could do to help. “This girl was a writer and so she would write poems and drive an hour to the shop to drop them off to be included in the care packages,” Martucci said. “You would not believe how many men I had contact me and tell me to thank her for her beautiful words.”

She has also received hundreds of letters from soldiers thanking her for her generosity and for remembering them. One soldier was so moved by what Martucci was doing that he rode his motorcycle from Utah just to thank her for her support in person.

Toward the back of the store, there are two framed letters on the wall. Those two letters were from soldiers who have since died in the war. Also lining the walls of the store are 12 framed American flags that she has received from men and women for all of her hard work and dedication.
“As citizens of this country, I think that we all have to be soldiers and I feel an obligation to ensure they are not forgotten,” Martucci said. “I also believe that when you give back, it always comes back tenfold.”

All across America, people like Martucci are finding ways to remember our nation’s veterans beyond traditional holidays. Martucci honors them through her business; others have tried to give back through their experiences. For instance, World War II veteran Donald Czadek agrees with Martucci in that they both want veterans to be remembered in the years to come, not by how many missions they flew, but rather by carrying on their tradition of service. He believes that the attitudes of Americans today often pale in comparison to those of his own generation. During the Depression, he relates, many Americans realized that although they were having a rough time, so was everyone else. As a consequence, most were more than willing to lend a helping hand when a neighbor needed it.

Czadek said he believes that society as a whole has lost their purpose in life and he is hoping that he will be able to change that. While he can’t perform the hard labor of a Habitat for Humanity project or write a check for thousands of dollars, Czadek is confident in his ability to make change by visiting classes to make sure that young people are getting an accurate view of what actually happened during World War II.

Czadek is not alone in his quest to keep the memories of veterans alive.

Because her father and both grandfathers are veterans, Vicki Martinka Petersen has been involved with the American Legion for 30 years. By age 4 she was attending events at the local American Legion Post where her parents enrolled her as a member of the American Legion Auxiliary. In order to be a member of the Auxiliary, you must be a Legionnaire’s wife, mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter, or grandmother.

Petersen has always been very involved with Legion-sponsored activities such as the annual essay contest and was awarded a college scholarship from the group.

She continues to use her writing talents in the organization’s public relations and marketing campaigns whenever they have events.

It’s more than a way of saying thanks, she said, it’s making a difference. “I feel like this is not just something I want to do, but something I have to do.”

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