|Operation Gratitude Newsletter
With your generous support, our Holiday Drive 2005 was an incredible success!! Not only did we send our 100,000th care package, but we sent another 39,498 packages to bring our overall tally to 111,100 packages sent since our inception!
Many exciting plans are developing for Operation Gratitude in 2006, starting with the launch of our Patriotic Drive in the Spring. We hope you will enjoy reading about all of our events in this Winter Newsletter!
HOLIDAY DRIVE 2005
Surpasses All Expectations!
Starting in October and continuing beyond the New Year, the intrepid Operation Gratitude Volunteers, led by the fantastic Hard Corps, joyfully dedicated themselves to receiving, inspecting and sorting the tens of thousands of donations shipped from more than 2700 collection drives throughout the nation. 400 Jeep Dealers across the country acted as Official Operation Gratitude Drop-Off Sites, sending from 2 to 50 cartons of items collected from local supporters.
During the Veterans’ and Thanksgiving Weekends in November and several weekends in December, more than 1000 volunteers gathered at the Army National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, CA to assemble the Holiday Care Packages. On the first day of the Drive, Major General Mark Hertling from US Army-Europe, Germany, who is a great supporter of Operation Gratitude, diverted from another mission to thank all the great volunteers, including participants from as far away as Hawaii, Texas, Phoenix and New York, some of whom flew all night to join us!
The gift boxes were filled with items donated by 62 corporate sponsors and thousands of individual donors. Items included SanDisk Flash Drives, Holiday Greeting cards, DVDs, Music CDs, disposable cameras, energy bars, snacks, candy and cookies, t- shirts, socks, hand and foot warmers, AA batteries, hand-knit hats and scarves, Craisins, HOOAH Bars, phone cards, SF Bay Coffee, Newmans Own popcorn, personal letters of appreciation and various other goodies.
The 100,000th Care Package, which will be delivered in person when the service member returns to the U.S., included two tickets to a 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race donated by sponsor Checkers/Rally, the official burger of NASCAR, as well as free Checkers/Rally food for one year. As the 100,000th package was assembled, SSG Elizabeth Cowie and Carolyn Blashek presented Plaques of Appreciation to the corporate sponsors and other significant supporters whose extraordinary generosity and dedication enabled Operation Gratitude to reach this milestone event.
THE PACKAGES ARRIVE!!
Troops send emails, letters and pictures
The first Operation Gratitude Holiday Package arrived in Iraq in just 8 days!! Our thanks go out to the wonderful men and women at the Van Nuys Regional U.S. Post Office, who worked feverishly through the entire Holiday season to ensure that our packages were processed as quickly as possible. And the troops who received the packages have been sending their thanks to all of you:
One recipient wrote: “I am in the United States Navy Seabee’s serving in Fallujah Iraq. I would like to personally thank all who have contributed their time and efforts in what I believe to be an inspiring and quite dramatic display of support from the home front. From the packages and letters sent I’ve seen tears from some, hope to most and inspiration to all of us. Mail is one of the most important things we can get; it takes our minds away for a little while and reminds us of home. It means a lot when folks back home are taking time out of their busy schedules, not only to think about but also support the troops in theatre. That support tells us our efforts here are greatly appreciated and that in turn helps boost troop morale and spirits. I wish each and every one of you Happy Holidays and a big Thank you. V/r UT1 M.T.”
And from a Soldier in Iraq: “Your support has lifted several heavy hearts this holiday season. Not only mine. Our unit received several of your packages today. As customary in our office, all packages from the states, family ones too, are opened in front of everyone. It’s well known among our families how much they support us and our cause. What isn’t as well known is how much the rest of the country does. Your packages silenced my usually circus-like office. As the notes and cards were passed around and soldiers began reading over each others shoulders, you could’ve heard a pin drop. As I looked around I began to wonder if you really understand how much you touch so many soldiers. I wondered if you feel that your efforts even make a difference in a soldier’s life or are even appreciated. Your efforts do bring smiles and heart felt thanks. I felt the need to express my own gratitude to the countless people that made a crusty old CW4 smile, lift up his chin and thank God that he’s an American. Sincerely, CW4 S.M.”