Thank You!


Making a difference - one random act of kindness at a time

This site features the photography of Sharon Valencia.  The initial intent was to share photos with my family...and then I found a calling.

A few years ago I decided that there must be some way for me to thank the men and women who serve our country and protect our freedom.  One night, I was on a walk and happened to pass the Marine Corps Memorial during a Sunset Parade.  I couldn’t help but to notice all the people taking pictures of and with the Marines.  Veterans were proudly having their photos taken with the younger Marines.  Girls were arguing over who could be photographed holding the arm of the young men (seriously).  Then it hit me - I could use my photography skills to thank the Marines.  Little did I know how profound an effect it would have on my life!

Initially, I set out to take pictures of a single parade.  I posted the pictures to my website so that the Marines could share the photos with their families.  I set the pictures to music and passed out CDs to the men and women in the pictures the following week.  Those who didn’t get a CD were disappointed.  The next week, I returned with more.  The Marines were so appreciative that I returned to Sunset and Evening Parades for the rest of the summer - taking pictures and posting them for sharing.  I put together a season-long compilation CD, again set to music.  I spent a few evenings and weekends at the Marine Corps and WWII Memorials distributing the CDs to veterans.  It was so rewarding that I repeated myself the following year!  All told, I’ve distributed approximately 6500 DVDs/CDs of the photos - all taken, compiled, set to music, burned, labeled, packaged, and distributed by me - each with my personal thank you to those who have served. 

In the process, I have met SO many wonderful individuals and had some wonderful experiences.  While I initially set out to thank those who serve, I learned quickly that a simple, random act of kindness can change the giver as much as the receiver!  I have met the son of one of the men depicted in the monument and corresponded with the sister of another.  I met the widow of the monument sculptor.  Yet, the moments of pride come from the thank you notes I received from the families of those in the photos, the smiles from our veterans, and even the tears from veterans who had never before been thanked.  The biggest honor was taking the CD to the Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital - thanking each of them for their sacrifice.  Thanking others has helped me make a positive impact in this photo at a time! 

In 2013, I sustained injuries that left me unable to walk without assistance for over a year (hence the lapse in pictures).  The Marine Corps and this project served as my inspiration to fight when the going was tough.  A special thank you goes to all the Marines who knowingly or unknowingly helped during my recovery.  The visits, cards, words of encouragement, supervised walks and the hugs... oh so many hugs!!  I couldn’t have come this far without all of you.  I can’t thank you enough!  “If the Marines can do it.... I can do it!”  They truly don’t leave a man or woman behind.  It helped me keep things in perspective and maintain a positive attitude.  Additionally, this project has played a role in my occupational rehabilitation.  The day I was able to finish the 2013 & 2014 DVD... incredible! 

In 2009, I changed the video length when I modernized to YouTube (which had a 10 minute maximum length at the time).  In 2015, I finally took the step of putting information on Facebook.  The page is Sharon Valencia - Random Acts of Kindness.  Please “like” the page and share this random act of kindness with others. 

The Marine Corps photos, DVDs/CDs and this site have been entirely self-funded.  Well... except one very sneaky WWII vet that found a way to directly pay me.  My reward is knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of others.  I treasure the emails and messages I receive from all of you.  Please let me know how you heard about my random act of kindness and how it has touched you.  Rather than accepting payment, I encourage people to pay it forward.  If you would like to make a donation, please consider the Semper Fi Fund, Gary Sinise Foundation, Wounded Wear, GI Film Festival, or other military-related charities.  I am not endorsing a particular charity but rather providing ideas.  Maybe you find your own way to make a difference.  It is possible for one person to make a difference in this world and everyone should try.

Marines, their families, and their friends may download the pictures for their personal use.  Any other use of the photos requires written permission.  The pictures are provided free of charge to honor those who serve and may not be altered or sold without my express written permission.

Semper Fi!