A Campaign to Sign Thanks to Troops

What do you do when you see members of the military? The Gratitude Campaign urges people to show their appreciation with a sign similar to the American Sign Language gesture for "Thank You." Alex Cohen talks with Scott Truitt who started the campaign.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

Over the next few weeks, 3,500 hundred soldiers now stationed in Iraq will begin to return home to the U.S. You might wind up seeing some of them in uniform on the street, at the airport. So, what do you do? Perhaps you want to thank them for their service, but you aren't quite sure what to say. That's how Scott Truitt felt, and so he did something about it. Scott Truitt joins us now from Seattle. Welcome to the program.

Mr. SCOTT TRUITT (Founder, The Gratitude Campaign): Thanks.

COHEN: So, you have started something you're calling the Gratitude Campaign. What is it?

Mr. TRUITT: Well, just as your intro said, I found myself in airports quite a bit over the last 10 years or so, and I would walk up and verbally thank soldiers for serving for us, and shake their hand, and sometimes I noticed that this was a really easy thing to do, and it felt very natural. And then other times it kind of felt awkward, and there are lots of different reasons why that happens, as I've learned over the years.

I'm familiar with the military salute, and I started thinking, you know, boy it'd be nice if civilians had something similar to a salute that we could use to say thank you quickly and easily without having to approach somebody if we are not comfortable with that, or without having to stop them if they're in a hurry.

And so basically what the Gratitude Campaign is, is it's a gesture that starts with your hand on your heart as though you're about to do the pledge of allegiance, and then you just bring your hand out and down in front of you, and the literal translation for this sign is "thank you from the bottom of my heart."

COHEN: Soldiers aren't necessarily going to know what this sign means. Isn't there a possibility that you could run the risk of them taking it the wrong way? I mean, if you see the sign it's not too far from a sign that could actually be interpreted as a very rude gesture.

Mr. TRUITT: There is another gesture that starts with the hand just under the chin and it's an offensive gesture, and that's why we went with the one that starts at the heart so that if you didn't know what it means, you would at least know that it comes from the heart, and it must be a good thing.

COHEN: We spoke earlier today with an Army spokesperson, and she told us that she hadn't heard of this campaign. She said she wouldn't be too surprised if it caught on, but how do you do that? How do you get the word out so soldiers actually know what this means?

Mr. TRUITT: One of the ways that we started getting the word out was by airing this video that we've made at sports presentations. We had the Seattle Seahawks, NFL football team, air it at their games, all their home games this past season, and several other professional sports teams have done the same this year, and we've been really grateful about that. We also posted it to the Internet, and it kind of took off from there.

We've had over eight million visitors since December. We also have - there's a woman in Germany who is responsible for reintegrating soldiers into civilian life after they've served overseas. They stop through Germany first on their way home, and she is using our videos to open up her program that she does with them. So, a lot of soldiers are seeing it that way.

COHEN: It's almost become like a secret handshake it sounds like.

Mr. TRUITT: It is, yeah.

COHEN: Scott Truitt is founder of the Gratitude Campaign. He spoke to us from Seattle. Thank you.

Mr. TRUITT: Thank you.

COHEN: With gratitude, we ask you to keep listening, as NPR's Day to Day continues.

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