By By Spc Landis AndrewsFebruary 5, 2010
In the new movie, "Dear John," Channing Tatum's character, John Tyree, and his girlfriend have constant correspondence through letters they write to each other. Tyree, a constantly-deployed special forces sergeant, never knows what news the next envelope may deliver, but he is sure of one thing: those letters mean the world to him.
That was the theme of an event organized by Spc. Gregory Williams, an Army Reserve Soldier with the 361st Public Affairs Operations Center at Fort Totten, N.Y. (Williams is currently cross-leveled with the 139th Transportation Detachment as a transportation management coordinator).
Williams, whose civilian job is a movie promoter, coordinated with Screen Gems / Sony Pictures to show "Dear John," a military romance film, to support Operation Troop Appreciation, a non-profit organization that sends care packages to servicemembers deployed in the Middle East.
"The movie showed how much support from home means to Soldiers overseas," Williams said.
People began lining up for the screening at 4 p.m., and waited in the New York cold for the 7 p.m. screening. The event recruited more moviegoers than the theater's capacity, which forced the venue to deny a multitude of hopefuls a sneak peak at the film before the movie hits theaters nationwide. However, even after being turned away, they happily donated to the drive, as originally planned.
"The donation drive was inspiring and a reminder that the War on Terror is not over," said Carmen Lozado, a New York native. "Our troops still need our support and are missed."
The number of people that came out to show support, which included Army Soldiers and Coast Guardsmen, even shocked Williams.
"I'm surprised at how many people showed up with such enthusiasm, ready to show how much they care," Williams said.
More than 300 people donated toiletry items, books, movies, pillows and blankets. In return, they were entered in a raffle to win an autograph copy of Nicholas Sparks' novel by the same name that inspired the film, and a movie poster signed by Tatum.
As the night came to a close, Williams said he felt like he made an impact on the lives of many.
"I've coordinated screenings for Soldiers in the past, but this movie hits home because Families sacrifice a lot for their relatives that serve in the armed forces," he said. "I left that theater proud of not only myself, but after the turnout I witnessed, it made me proud to serve."
For more information on Operation Troop Appreciation, visit www.operationtroopappreciation.org.