The holidays can be a difficult time, especially for members of the military, serving far from home. An annual tradition at the Elks Lodge in Gardena is to write cards for the troops.

Gathered at a long table in the main hall on a recent night were Rodney Tanaka, Jean Kohatsu, Sylvia Hernandez, Debbie Ybarra, Alyssa Santos, Diane Serrell, Monte Monteverde, Matt Almaraz and Frank and Cuca Ruvalava.

The Elks also donated $4,000 to the City of Gardena’s Helping Hands program to assist those in need during the holidays.

The message to the men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces was: “Merry Christmas. Thank you for your service. Freedom is not free.”

Photos by GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo

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