Operation Gratitude and Chrysler LLC Deliver Customized Vehicle
to Soldier Upon Return Home from Iraq Deployment
|In front of 4,000 soldiers of the 4th Stryker Brigade in Ft. Lewis, Washington, Army Corporal (Cpl.) Michael “Shaun” Gallagher took possession of the vehicle promised to him in the Operation Gratitude care package he received last January: An all-new, custom-painted 2008 Jeep® Liberty. The vehicle was provided to him by Chrysler LLC in partnership with Operation Gratitude, and includes a custom-painted mural that honors the fallen warriors from Gallagher’s unit.
The presentation was the culmination of Operation Gratitude’s 300,000th care package celebration, which started on December 15, 2007 with the assembly of the 300,000th package at Operation Gratitude’s facility in Van Nuys, CA, continued with the January, 2008 personal delivery by Operation Gratitude representatives of that package to (then) Spc. Gallagher in Iraq, and was concluded on July 1 with the emotional presentation of the vehicle just prior to the redeployment ceremony marking the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division brigade’s return from their Iraq deployment.
Frank Fountain, Senior Vice President, External Affairs and Public Policy – Chrysler LLC delivered the vehicle along with Carolyn Blashek, Founder of Operation Gratitude, who was accompanied by several Operation Gratitude volunteers and three Washington State Gold Star mothers.
“Our Armed Forces are making incredible sacrifices every day to protect our freedom and way of life,” said Fountain. “Providing Cpl. Gallagher with an all-new Jeep Liberty vehicle is the least we could do to thank him for his courage and service to our country.”
Upon receiving the vehicle keys in his Operation Gratitude package delivered in Iraq almost 6 months ago, (then) Spc. Gallagher expressed his plan to personalize the vehicle with a tribute to the fallen soldiers from his unit, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. To surprise him during the July 1 presentation, Gallagher’s family, Operation Gratitude and Chrysler arranged to have the memorial painted while he was still in Iraq.
Gallagher’s new Jeep features a custom-painted mural on its hood that reads:
|In Memory Of The Fallen Heroes Of Alpha Company 2.23 Infantry
You Will Never Be Forgotten
Joseph Landry III
Donald Valentine III
Luigi Marciante Jr.
|The traditional battlefield memorial of combat boots, rifle and dog tags appears on both sides of the names. A phoenix, the bird of mythology that rises out of the ashes, is in the background. The design was Cpl. Gallagher’s concept, sketched onto paper by his mother, Karen Gallagher, and permanently memorialized on the vehicle by artist Mike Lavallee of Killer Paint in Snohomish, WA. The words, “Thank You Operation Gratitude” are painted on the rear bumper.
For local tv coverage: KOMO News
“I felt this would be a way to honor them for their service. It represents their lives,” Gallagher said, choking back tears. “Now they are all home and always with us,” added his mother, Karen, who traveled from her home in California for the Welcome Home Ceremony and Presentation.
“Meeting (then) Spc. Gallagher and his team in Iraq last January when we hand-delivered the 300,000th Operation Gratitude package was a very special moment, matched only by seeing him take delivery of the Jeep Liberty here at home on American soil,” said Blashek. “Cpl. Gallagher (promoted the morning of the presentation) is a wonderful representative to receive our expression of gratitude for the entire U.S. Military. We are truly a blessed nation to have the professionalism, dedication and service of men and women like all of you,” Blashek told the assembled soldiers.
“Spc. Gallagher’s desire to transform the vehicle into a permanent moving tribute to our fallen Warriors is very touching and meaningful not just for those of us who have lost loved ones, but to every American who honors our Military,” added California Gold Star Mother Sue Pollard, an Operation Gratitude Volunteer Supervisor who attended the event.
|Continuing to Honor Those That Serve
Operation Gratitude recently completed its 2008 Patriotic Drive, during which it sent its 350,000th care package. The organization has already started preparations for the 2008 Holiday Drive, which will include the assembly and shipment of the organization’s 400,000 care package on December 13, 2008.
Chrysler expresses ongoing support and encouragement to America’s military men and women through its “Honoring Those Who Serve” initiative, consisting of three components: Employment (career opportunities), Transportation (special incentives and warranties on Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge products) and Community (support for Military oriented non-profit organizations).
|About Operation Gratitude
Operation Gratitude ( www.operationgratitude.com ) is the California- based 501 (c) (3) non-profit, all-volunteer organization that annually sends 100,000+ care packages of snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in hostile regions such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and on military ships at sea. Its mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member’s face and to express to all troops the appreciation and support of the American people. For safety and security, all assembling of packages occurs at the Army National Guard armory in Van Nuys, California. Since its inception in March, 2003, Operation Gratitude has shipped more than 350,000 packages to American troops deployed overseas.
About Chrysler LLC
Chrysler LLC, (www.chrysler.com ) headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., produces Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Mopar® brand vehicles and products. Total sales worldwide in 2007 were 2.7 million vehicles. Sales outside of North America were the highest ever with an increase of eight percent over 2006. Its product lineup features some of the world’s most recognizable vehicles, including the Chrysler 300 and Town & Country, Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, and Dodge Challenger and Ram. The Chrysler Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, annually supports hundreds of charitable organizations in the United States and throughout the world. In 2007, the Foundation gave approximately $21 million in charitable donations.