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WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. -- When 77-year-old Marlys Halbeisen started collecting Christmas cards earlier this year for the troops overseas, she had no idea what it would become.
“We have 18,000 cards,” Halbeisen said from her living room in Wheat Ridge.
She and her friends and family have spent the past 10 ½ months personalizing and signing those cards.
“We’ve messed up a few,” said a friend, who did not wish to be identified for this story. “But we fixed them.”
“Most of them say, 'Dear Hero – Thank you for your service.' And, 'Thank you for our freedom. God Bless you,’" Halbeisen said.
The Christmas card campaign has taken on a life of its own, in part because of who Halbeisen is.
“Absolutely,” said her daughter-in-law Tamera Halbeisen. “She’s amazing. She would give a stranger the shirt off her back.”
Also – in part – because of who her late husband was.
"Donald J. Halbeisen,” the 77-year-old said. “He guarded the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany. He was there during the Korean War."
"He was such an amazing man," said her daughter-in-law.
“I so believe that - there are so many people overseas, as he was, that are very lonely at Christmastime," Halbeisen said.
Her Christmas card efforts started last year.
“Last year we delivered 2,700 cards," Halbeisen said.
But this year, she has a problem.
"Eighteen thousand smiles are sitting in my front room,” Halbeisen said. “And we need to get them delivered."
The group that delivered them last year has appeared to vanish.
“There’s no working number,” Halbeisen said.
“I found out she wasn't sleeping and - as you see - it broke my heart," Tamera said.
So — through some last-minute scrambling — Tamera has figured out the USASOA in Washington, DC can get them overseas — for about $1,700.
"That is our issue," Halbeisen said.
So they sit, in her living room. All those smiles, waiting to happen. All that hard work that just needs a little help getting from here to there.
"There were many evenings where I just sat and wrote cards," Halbeisen said. "I just wanted to be able to send a card and say, 'Someone cares,'" Halbeisen said.
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