An estimated 400 Harvard Law School students, faculty and staff gathered in Pound Hall for a “Thanksgiving for the Troops” on November 18, raising money and collecting items for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The event was sponsored and organized by the HLS student government.

Individuals who purchased tickets for the event were served traditional Thanksgiving fare in exchange for their donation to the cause. Organizers estimate over $6,000 was raised, and countless personal items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, and playing cards were donated.

“We chose the cause because we know that there are veterans in the HLS community and we felt that it wasn’t something that generally gets much attention at the law school,” said Jennifer Dein ’11, vice president of HLS Student Government and a key organizer of the event.  “Personally, it’s a cause that I am passionate about, so I was really excited to see how many students felt the same.”

John Doyle ’12, a veteran who served in the Army’s elite Special Forces in Iraq, said he was especially pleased that many of his classmates took the opportunity to ask questions about his military service. “I think a lot of people are curious about what ‘goes on’ in the military, but don’t know if it’s ok to ask,” said Doyle, who trained counterterrorist forces with the United Arab Emirates and later served in northern Iraq. “The lead up to the dinner, and the event itself, were a great chance to sit and talk with my classmates about what I did and what I thought about it.”

Several HLS veterans helped publicize the event by visiting classrooms and sharing their overseas experiences.

“I started law school this year after two tours with the U.S. Navy,” said Eric Powell ’12. “I know first-hand how truly meaningful it is to receive packages and expressions of appreciation from home.”  Saying thank you is one of the most important things citizens can do to show support, he added. “It can be easy for our men and women in uniform to forget why they are working so hard and so far from home. A simple show of appreciation, though, can make it all clear and worthwhile.”

Powell solicited and tracked donations from colleagues in his section of the first-year class. His Contracts professor, Elizabeth Warren, helped him.

“When Professor Warren heard about the event, she eagerly jumped on board to help make it an even bigger success,” said Powell. “She wrapped her offer to match students’ contributions into a contracts lesson. In part as a result of that, our section’s participation was overwhelming: about 90 percent of the section donated money and we raised about $1,100.”

In addition to donating money and toiletries, students wrote letters, or signed cards for the troops.

“I think the night went spectacularly,” said Dein. “One soldier on active duty was able to attend—he is on leave from Afghanistan and had returned to America only days before. I think it meant a lot to him to be greeted with a Thanksgiving meal and so much gratitude upon his return. The amount of money we raised will go far towards showing troops overseas that we appreciate them, and the students who attended the dinner seemed to have a great time.”

See a recent profile of four veterans in the Class of 2012, “Battle-tested soldiers bring records of service to Harvard Law School.”