by Jill Kruse
An attack by three guys 17 years ago may have put Dave Murphy in the hospital but it also put him on the road to becoming one of Canada’s greatest supporters of our men and women in uniform.
His Thank a Soldier website has attracted millions from all over the world and given Murphy a way to serve.
“I have always had admiration for our troops and wanted to join up for the longest time,” says Murphy. “But the incident in 1994 left me with half a muscle in my leg so I will always have to serve from the outside.”
Murphy began serving by bringing Tim Horton coffee to fire halls across Toronto as a way to thank the two firemen who saved his life that day. When he heard the troops would be getting a Tim Hortons in Afghanistan in 2007 he launched the site “Tim Hortons For Our Troops” on the social network Facebook.
“After growing to 17,000 members on Facebook, coffee4ourtroops.com was set up as a side site,” says Murphy. “However, in 2008 my site was eventually shut down by a foreign hacking group and I was ready to quit.”
But after talking with the mother of a fallen soldier Murphy became motivated to do more.
“She told me I could not quit because it meant so much to the military family and that she had met so many amazing people through my site,” he says. “I was later inspired while listening to a song by Julian Austin called The Red and White. There is line in it that says ‘Do we take the time to thank a soldier for everything they do?’ Thus, in 2009 Thank a Soldier was launched.”
On November 27, 2009, Murphy announced on Facebook that his cause had attracted over three million members. As of this writing it was at 4.1 million and growing. The Newfoundland native says he thinks so many come to the website because it’s real, there are no donations or advertising revenue and it’s more of a movement than a charity.
Murphy now lives and works in Calgary for a communications firm. The company and his family have been very supportive of this work to support the troops. Given his family history, it’s not all that surprising Murphy has reached out to help others.
“My family are blown away by everything that has happened,” says Murphy. “My folks were Salvation Army officers so I’ve been around charity and good works since I was born.”
The response to the Thank a Soldier site has been nothing short of amazing and so has the feedback from the troops. Last year a troop of US Army soldiers in Iraq flew a flag for a day in honour of Thank a Soldier. And besides getting notes from many Canadian soldiers he also gets news from American, British and Australian troops; he loves getting letters from all over the world.
“The best part is the little stories I hear,” says Murphy. “Especially from the families.”
One particular story touched his heart.
“The best story was from the fiancée of a fallen soldier who was a huge Boston Bruins Fan. After he was killed she received a signed Bobby Orr hockey jersey with a note to her daughter that said ‘I was your Daddy’s hero, but he was mine – Bobby Orr.”
Murphy says his original intention for the site was to show our Canadian troops how much their courage and loyalty to duty means to their country. But when he started hearing from people all over the world he realized that the site had transformed into a place where people can come and voice their appreciation for all coalition forces on deployments throughout the world.
“My main goal is to keep the memory of the Fallen alive and not let them become numbers,” he says. “And to not let people forget the men and women who continue to serve on operations all over the world.”
A recent initiative, the Gratitude Project, whereby Murphy had celebrities and families send in photos of themselves expressing thanks, attracted the attention of some Hollywood stars.
“The biggest thing that happened with the Gratitude Project was when Shannon Tweed contacted me about it by Twitter,” says Murphy. “Then later I opened an email and it was a photo from Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed. They put it on their website and on Twitter and traffic tripled on the site and I received enough photos to make a ten-part YouTube video series.”
Murphy says the greatest lesson he has learned from all this is from the families of the Fallen: “I can pick up the phone anytime and say hello and I love you. These families will never do that again. And I’ll never take that for granted.”
Since the launch of the Thank a Soldier site, Murphy has taken on a new project: a monthly online newspaper written by members for members. Two issues have been released so far and he continues to receive many submissions.
To read more about the support activities Dave Murphy is involved in, join him on Facebook at the cause site: Thank a Soldier.
by Jill Kruse