Operation Gratitude . . .
Making a Difference in Military Service and People’s Lives, One Box at a Time
By Heather Martin
The weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday, hundreds of individuals – still brimming with turkey and stuffing – assembled at the armory in Van Nuys to spend their Saturday morning stuffing care packages for those serving in the United States Military.
A local trainer Jocelyn (known by fans as “Joz Knowz” on Facebook) sent out a unique email, inviting attendees of her Saturday boot camp class to “use their energy to pack boxes” instead of the usual routine of pushups and squats. Over a dozen boot campers attended, joining dozens of other volunteers through a make shift assembly line where U.S. postal service boxes were stuffed full of books, scarfs, lotions, pens, candy, chapstick and other items including personally written letters to the troops. This all took place due to the efforts of an organization called “Operation Gratitude.”
Operation Gratitude is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization founded by Carolyn Blashek that sends 100,000 care packages annually filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in hostile regions, to their children left behind and to Wounded Warriors, Veterans and First Responders. Blashek says “The events of 9-11 caused me to want to join the Military as our nation was under attack. However, I was too old, so I sought to find a way to support the military as a civilian…that led me to the [military] lounge at LAX.” There in 2003, she was approached by a soldier who broke down at her desk.
The soldier was on leave from a war zone for his mother’s funeral, his wife had left him and his only child had died as an infant–he had no one else in his life. “I’m going back over there; I know I won’t make it back this time, but it really doesn’t matter because no one would even care” he told her. Right then Blashek realized that when bullets are flying, troops must believe that someone at home cares about them as an individual. That’s when Operation Gratitude was born.
Blashek adds that their “mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member’s face and express to our Armed Forces the appreciation and support of the American people.” Her non-profit is making a difference in the lives of military service members, one box at a time. And the organization’s mission is becoming a reality.
An Army First Sergeant wrote to tell Operation Gratitude that they had saved the life of his Soldier:
“Your care packages helped lift morale here greatly and helped save the life of a young soldier. We had a soldier who never got mail, care packages, or anything. He had little family and as it turns out was planning to commit suicide on Christmas, but because that soldier received your care package on Christmas Eve, it was like a Christmas gift. It made the soldier change his mind. The soldier now writes letters and emails to the folks whose names were in the box and his attitude and outlook on life have really improved. This is not a story-it is true. We found out when the soldier finally opened up and talked to the Chain of Command about what was going through his mind. Your care package made a major difference in a human life. Because of your organization, one less family received terrible news at Christmas time.”
Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude has sent more than 894,175 care packages. The organization sends a care package to every currently deployed service member whose name is received and to Veterans of earlier eras under the banner: “It’s never too late to say Thank You.” Special “Battalion Buddy” packages with stuffed animals are sent to the children of deploying troops.
The One-Millionth Package will be assembled and delivered in December, 2013. They need volunteers and supporters to donate time, items and money. Please show your support for Operation Gratitude and our troops by visiting them online to see how you can help: http://www.operationgratitude.com/get-involved/how-you-can-help/
* For additional information please visit Operation Gratitude online at www.operationgratitude.com.