That was going to be the theme for this year’s Operation Gratitude holiday fundraising appeal. You can read the letter I intended to send as I have included it below.
Today, however, everything changed. An absolutely amazing individual sent me a follow-up to a story I shared with you last year. His letter speaks far more profoundly than anything I could write.
On September 26, 2007 he wrote:
Our unit will be leaving Iraq in a few weeks. I just wanted to thank you for your support of all soldiers over here. Your care packages helped lift morale here greatly and you should know helped save the life of a young soldier.
We had a soldier who never got mail, care packages, or anything. He did not have much family and as it turns out was planning on committing suicide on Christmas, but because that soldier received your care package it was like a Christmas gift. It made the soldier change his mind.
The soldier now writes letters and emails to folks whose names were in the box and the soldier’s attitude and outlook on life has 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 thru his mind and got help for his depression.
Your care package made a major difference in a human life. Because of your organization, one less family received terrible news at Christmas time.
This has been my third deployment here and I remember how on my first deployment, I almost never got mail and then received a care package from your group. It made me feel much better about being separated from my loved ones. Is there anything I can do to help out? Your group has helped me so I think I should return the great favor. What can I do to help out? Send $$ donations? Just name it. V/R, SFC J.S.”
Today, he simply wanted to send me a brief update and ask again if there is anything he could do to help:
It has been quite a while but I thought I would update you on the soldier whose life was saved by an Operation Gratitude care package. His work attitude and leadership skills have so improved that he has since been promoted to Sergeant and is currently a squad leader and “one of the best” in the platoon he is assigned to, I am told by his platoon sergeant. He has a steady girlfriend and just recently re-enlisted.
If you had taken this soldier over a year ago and put him next to the soldier he has become you would swear it was two different people. And it was all due to a care package sent to a soldier by good people back in the states that he had never met before. Please let everybody there know.
As for me, I am leaving the service. Unfortunately, I had a run in with an IED that has ended my military career and left me pretty banged and burned up. I have been in recovery and had a few reconstructive surgeries over the last months. I only have three days left in service.
Please continue helping those still over there and going over there. I know we are old news and a lot of folks back home are tired of the news there, but it is important that we not forget those who still serve. We have to remember and support them “until everyone comes home.”
Take care and you once sent me an address where I could mail contributions. Could you send it again? I have lost it along with all my belongings and papers from Iraq. Take care and God bless. SFC (for another 72 hours) J.S.
Reading his email, I was thrilled to learn about the newfound success of the soldier who had contemplated suicide. It wasn’t until J.S. revealed his own “run in with an IED” that I started to cry. I realized that life-changing incident happened only days, maybe hours after he emailed us last year. I was pained to think about the year he just experienced. But then, I admit to you, I completely lost it when he asked me today how he could help us
After reading his words I was an emotional wreck for the rest of the day. Here was a wounded Warrior, whose own life took a devastating turn, who felt it was so important that we comprehend the impact of our packages, that he sent us an email 3 days before his final separation from the military urging us to continue our mission.
A Warrior whose own career had abruptly ended, but who felt compelled to donate his personal funds to make sure that his compatriots still received our care packages.
If J.S. can’t forget the heroic Warriors still serving, surely we must not forget them either.
And should you have a shred of doubt about your impact through Operation Gratitude, please re-read J.S.’s letters…again and again.
And then continue reading the letter I originally wrote to you:
“Your care packages not only put smiles on our faces; they saved our lives.”
Staff Sergeant S.R.
As we witness an historic and peaceful transition of our government, and look forward to spending the Holidays with our own family and friends, tens of thousands of U.S. Service Members voluntarily endure the life and death hardships of combat while separated from their loved ones and the comforts of home.
Despite difficult economic times, our nation is blessed by the enduring democratic freedoms of the right to vote and the right to speak…freedoms defended by our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.
Especially on this Veteran’s Day, now is the time to express our appreciation to the men and women of our Military who stand strong and stand guard to ensure our freedoms here at home and to promote the ideals of democracy around the world. Now is the time that you, too, can be part of their effort by supporting them on the front lines:
“Thank you so much for your care packages and the inspiring words of support, faith, and encouragement you so graciously and lovingly put together and sent to our team in Afghanistan. It really does make a difference to us over here. As service members, we are called upon to leave behind family, friends, and the comfort of our homes to support our nation. Because we have so much, we also will sacrifice to give to those less fortunate. Some mistakenly believe people serve in the military because we love war; what they don’t realize is most of us serve because we love and cherish liberty and freedom and want everyone in the world to enjoy the same as we have in America. God bless you, Sergeant C.S. and the whole ANA COMM ETT (Afghan National Army Communications Embedded Training Team)”
Operation Gratitude is facing its most challenging year since its inception in 2003. Right now, 75% of the 70,000 Care Packages we will assemble for our troops will not reach them without your help.
While our Corporate Product Donors
have generously provided all the items we need for our care packages, our financial donations have dwindled to a trickle. Yet, our shipping expenses are higher than ever before at $9.30 for postage
alone and more than $10 per package
All donated funds are used for production and shipping expenses.
We do not expend funds on overhead, fundraising campaigns, direct mail or advertising.
We take no salaries. Every dollar donated directly supports our troops.
Operation Gratitude sends a care package personally addressed to every deployed service member whose name we receive.
We send 100,000–120,000 packages per year, which requires a cash budget of $1.2 Million/year.
This Holiday Drive, we will assemble 70,000 care packages.
Right now, we only have the funds to ship one-quarter of them.
|“We had a tip from an Iraqi child that we gave one of your beanie babies to, who let us know that bad people were making bombs in his neighborhood. The information he gave us led to a major terrorist cell being captured and countless lives being saved. You may not realize this, but we utilize everything you send–we do not waste a thing. Thanks again for what you do. Captain D.A. US Air Force”
Nothing would be sadder than to have more than 50,000 fabulously full and completed care packages still sitting in our warehouse on Christmas Day. Fifty thousand Care Packages lovingly assembled by our dedicated volunteers that could not be shipped to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan solely because we did not have the funds for postage.
We need your help to raise $500,000.00 this month to ship the care packages in time for the Holidays.
will send another package
will let 10 service members know you are thinking of them
will tell 50 troops in harm’s way that you care.
If you can afford even more, you can touch the hearts and say “Thank You” to even more of our nation’s finest. All donations to Operation Gratitude are tax deductible.
Donations can be made by Credit Card through the Operation Gratitude website or by check payable to Operation Gratitude and mailed to:
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436
We know budgets are limited this year–we are not asking you to spend more than you planned, but perhaps you can take $10 from each designated gift and send that to a Service member in honor of your friend or family member. We will send your loved one a beautiful tribute letter telling them about your thoughtful gift in their honor–letting them know that they too just sent a package of love to a Soldier or Marine on a battle field.
What could be a better or more meaningful gift this year?
“My company really enjoyed the Operation Gratitude care packages. They came at an important time here. You see, we lost a Soldier to this war we’re fighting; he was a good friend. We wondered why we were here, then your letters came and it all “kinda made sense.” We are here for you guys, to protect our moms, dads, little brothers and little sisters and every thing we believe in! We love your care packages. We love you guys more than you will ever know. You are our family. Keep up the good work. Specialist J.D. FOB (Forward Operating Base) Rustimiyah, Iraq”
We thank you for your enthusiastic support of Operation Gratitude through the years. With your kindness, we have been able to send more than 375,000 care packages
to men and women far from home to let them know that someone, somewhere, does care about them.
Last year I sent you a letter regarding a Soldier who planned to commit suicide on Christmas Day, but changed his mind when he received our Operation Gratitude care package on Christmas Eve. Please help us make sure that every deployed service member knows someone cares about him or her this Holiday season. Your $10 donation could send the care package that saves a life.
Today I urge you to partner with us once again to serve the courageous members of the United States Military, who risk life and limb to serve us. Your tax-deductible contribution during the Holidays will allow us to put smiles on the faces of our bravest Americans during a very difficult time away from home and loved ones. They and we will be forever grateful.
p.s. We now offer a way to become a “Sustaining Contributor”, supporting our program automatically on a monthly basis. For more information and to set up a recurring payment, click here: Sustaining Contributor
p.p.p.s. Please ask your family, friends, colleagues, associates, team mates, neighbors and everyone you know to join us in expressing our nation’s appreciation to our troops. We must raise $500,000.00 this month to send all the packages by the Holidays! Spread the word!