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Operation Gratitude Hand-Delivers 750,000th Package to Wounded Warrior

posted on Apr 02 2012 0 Comments

Van Nuys, CA – December 20, 2011 — As more than 2,000 volunteers, corporate sponsors and other special guests looked on in surprise this past Saturday,

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Operation Gratitude “Blue Shirt” Supervisors and 2000 Volunteers Send Greetings on December 17, 2011

founder Carolyn Blashek hand-delivered Operation Gratitude’s milestone 750,000th Care Package to its special recipient, a decorated combat veteran and wounded warrior, Sgt. Eric Rodriguez.

No one was more surprised than true American Hero Rodriguez.

As fate would have it, his was the 750,000th name on Operation Gratitude’s Master List started in March, 2003.

Rodriguez, 29, who grew up in Los Angeles and joined the U.S. Marine Corps at 17-years-old, straight out of high school, believed he was invited to the armory to speak about the morale-boosting impact care packages have on deployed troops. While that was true, there was an additional reason Operation Gratitude invited him — to honor this brave young man in person.

Before the surprise was revealed, Blashek introduced Rodriguez by briefly providing details about his life-changing injuries. While in Afghanistan on his eighth deployment in January 2011, he stepped on an improvised explosive device (“IED”) and was severely injured, ultimately losing his right leg and undergoing numerous surgeries to save his left leg.

“Today, less than a year later,” explained Blashek, “Sgt. Rodriguez is not just walking upright with a prosthetic, he skis, surfs, and competes in Wheelchair Basketball, football and rugby, and after one more surgery, plans

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USMC Sgt. Eric Rodriguez

to stay in the Marine Corps, return to Afghanistan with his Scout Sniper platoon and ‘finish up business.'”

Joining the “Milestone” celebration were friends and sponsors of Operation Gratitude who presented their 750,000th Celebration Gifts to Rodriguez, his wife, Tania, and their daughter Camila.

Among the gifts included in the Care Package were:
1. Two separate, all-expense paid trips to New York — one to the Buffalo Bills training camp and another to a taping of the Rachel Ray show;
2. Tickets to, and special hospitality at, Los Angeles Lakers, Kings and Dodgers games
3. Tickets to the 2012 Rose Bowl game, courtesy of UCLA;
4. Tickets to Universal Studios;
5. Four 3-Day Park Hopper Passes to Disneyland Resort, including a 3-night stay at the Disneyland Hotel;

6. A one-year supply of Emergen-C;

7. A painting of golf Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods; and an autographed poster of Wayne Gretzky courtesy of Upper Deck;

8. A handmade quilt and scarf;

9. A giant stuffed animal “Chum” Battalion Buddy courtesy of Kelly Toys for Camila; and

10. From actress, model and entrepreneur Kathy Ireland: A Hawaiian Dream Vacation, plus a selection of jewelry and home furnishings from Kathy Ireland Worldwide partners.

Last but not least, Blashek announced a gift from Target made in honor of Rodriguez and wounded comrades — a $15,000 donation to Operation Gratitude, a $100 gift card to Sgt. Rodriguez plus 349 additional $100 gift cards for other Purple Heart Recipients.

For full details on all the 750,000th Care Package Gifts and donors, please visit the Operation Gratitude blog: Celebration!

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Matt Rogers and Bryon Bos sing the National Anthem.

 

The Celebration Ceremony began with the National Anthem performed by music duo Rogers & Bos — Matt Rogers and Bryon Bos — who also closed the event with a performance of “Coming Home,” the theme song to Lifetime Television’s popular show of the same name. Rogers, an American Idol finalist, is the host of “Coming Home,” and Bos composed the song, which brought tears to the eyes of many a volunteer in the crowd.

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Commander Jerry King and Sgt. Eric Rodriguez.

Operation Gratitude volunteers were honored to work and celebrate alongside Sgt. Rodriguez, as well as many other special guests: Commander Jerry King, the 89-year-old leader of the local Jewish War Veterans post who presented Rodriguez with a 50th Anniversary World War II medal, Actors Sean Astin, Kevin Dobson and Erik Estrada, Actor/Comedian Tom Connolly, plus Los Angeles-area politicians (Assemblyman Blumenfield, Controller Greuel, Councilman Zine), members of the Motorcycle community, and dozens of school, church, scout and civic organizations.

Significant check presentations were made by Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run ($61,000); Cinnabon, Inc. ($50,000); Los Angeles Association of Health Underwriters ($12,000); Ride to the Flags/White Heart Foundation ($8,000), and Alacer Corp., the makers of Emergen-C ($5,000).

Blashek, who started the organization in 2003, provided staggering statistics about what the 750,000th package represented:
~ 6 Million pounds of product

~ $7.5 Million of postage
~ 37.5 Million individual items
~ $75 Million worth of product
sent to the troops through Operation Gratitude since its inception.

The Salvation Army of Southern California kept volunteers supplied with morning coffee and bottled water. During the lunch hour, volunteers were treated to a delicious meal generously provided by Al’s Chicken and the Rotary Clubs of Lancaster, Granada Hills and Northridge/Chatsworth. Corporate Sponsor Alacer distributed samples of its Emergen-C products, more than two million packets of which have been included in Operation Gratitude packages since 2004.

With the delivery of its 750,000th package, Operation Gratitude formally ended its 2011 Holiday Drive, having assembled 150,000 care packages for U.S. Service Members, Purple Recipient¬†and Military Children this year. Blashek reminds supporters, however, that with 200,000 service members away from home and in harm’s way, their work continues, as does the need to raise funds to pay assembly and shipping costs — approximately $15 per care package.

 

“Between requests from units deployed to Afghanistan and ships at sea, the need to fulfill those requests continues,” she says. “Plus, the Battalion Buddy and Purple Heart¬†programs are on-going, year round, with new requests coming in every week.”

Tax deductible financial donations to pay the $15 per package cost to assemble and ship the packages are still accepted online or by check addressed and mailed to:


Operation Gratitude
21100 Lassen Street
Chatsworth, CA 91311

Online credit card donations (tax-deductible) can be made here: DONATE NOW. Please consider a “Recurring Donation” to help us send care packages every month.

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