Bill White valentine cards, 104-year-old Marine collects 150 cards.
It’s hard to imagine anyone having a more heartwarming Valentine’s Day this year than United States Marine Maj. Bill White.
A simple request on social media to honor the 104-year-old Purple Heart recipient and World War II veteran with a Valentine’s Day card turned into a global outpouring of love and support that came to be known as Operation Valentine.
White’s daughter, Mary Huston, estimates about 300,000 cards, letters and gifts have flooded her father’s residence, The Oaks at Inglewood in Stockton, since fellow Oaks resident Tony Walker’s post on social media some five weeks ago.
On Thursday, dozens of citizens, active military, retired military and law enforcement members visited Maj. White during an open house at The Oaks. The walls were covered with some of the cards and more were stacked on the floor still in their U.S. Postal Service bins.
“We are here because we wanted to reach out to Maj. White and celebrate him,” said Apolonio Garcia, a U.S. Marine reservist and officer with the Stockton Police Department’s Mobile Field Force. “He’s leaving a great legacy so we definitely want to come out here and celebrate him.”
Garcia and Ricardo Zamora, a Stockton Police Department child abuse and sexual assault detective and mobile field force member, presented White with a card and framed photograph of the mobile field force.
“It’s a major accomplishment to reach 100 but 104 is really unheard of,” Zamora said. “When we heard about what Maj. White was requesting we jumped on the opportunity as soon as we could as a team.”
Maj. White sat in a large chair in The Oaks’ living room wearing his full dress uniform and accepted gifts, proclamations and congratulations. White graciously thanked everyone who came to see him.
Huston stood nearby smiling as she watched her father interact with the large gathering, many of whom waited several minutes in the hallway for the opportunity to offer their respects.
“Still a little overwhelmed, but so proud and so thankful,” said Huston when asked how she felt Thursday. “He’s holding up amazingly well. We’re trying to pace him. He’s appreciative and thankful and honored by all the attention and the thanks he’s received.”