Happy Independence Day, dear readers! Now, you might want to take a short break from waving your flag, put your sparklers on hold and grab a hanky. This story is going to put a lump in your throat the size of Texas, and bring tears to even the most hardened eyes among us. And I’m not joshing you.
Operation Gratitude was founded in 2003, by one mother (That’s right, just one), Carolyn Blashek. Carolyn has no children in the military. She doesn’t come from a military family. She’s not particularly political either. Shortly after 9/11, though, Carolyn got her patriotic calling.
Like many Americans, she wanted desperately to do something. At first, she even tried to join up and go fight. Too late; she was already past fighting age. So, she went with Plan B. She signed up for pre-deployment morale boosting at the USO lounge at the LA airport.
Enter an American soldier.
He’s young, oh-so young. He’s brave, oh-so brave. He’s ready, he thinks, to fight America’s battles for all the rest of us. But there’s one thing that worries him, and he opens his heart to this solitary mother. She may be the last civilian American he sees for a long, long time, perhaps ever.
What is this soldier’s greatest fear? Not being killed in action. Not being seriously wounded or even maimed. He doesn’t fear the enemy. He doesn’t fear the stifling heat, the torrential sandstorms, nor fighting for his life in heavy body armor. No, this young soldier fears that he won’t be remembered because there is no one who cares enough about him to remember that he lived and breathed, and was a unique human being.
He has no family, you see. He’s alone in this world and he’s about to embark on what may be his very last journey. There’s no fanfare. There are no parades, no fireworks, no waving flags, nor even a mom or dad or brother or sister to say “good-bye.” There is only this lonely soldier and a mom he doesn’t even know.
“I care. I care, and I’m grateful and I’ll always remember you,” says the mom. “Thank you,” says the soldier with a hug. And a moment later, this one goes off to war, perhaps never to come home again.
The very next month Carolyn founded Operation Gratitude in her own living room, collecting goodies, writing letters of support, and mailing her “I-Love-You!” packages to every soldier, whose name she could get.
That one encounter in the airport provided the stimulus for the Country’s most consistent, most successful, most far-reaching troop support organization, perhaps in American history. One unheralded soldier, one dedicated mom, and thousands of volunteers, private and corporate sponsors. Together, they have been saying, “Thank you!” to our troops in every place where America has men and women in harm’s way, for five whole years, with no excuses, no breaks, no vacations, and no paychecks either.
So far, Operation Gratitude has sent over 350,000 packages to individually named soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen. Day in, day out, our fighting forces are there for us, and right behind them, guarding the home flank, there are the OpGrat forces assembling care packages that say, “We love you!” “We thank you!” We care about you!” “You are not forgotten!”
OpGrat Even Saving Lives
Every time I talk to Carolyn, she tells me another story that sends chills up my spine and often brings tears to my eyes. This one, though, takes the cake as far as I’m concerned.
It seems that another wonderful American lady, who loves Beanie Babies, convinced Carolyn that these adorable little bean-stuffed critters would make a great addition to OpGrat care packages for the troops. Since the lady donated a whole lot of them, Carolyn agreed and faithfully included them in packages, not sure what the reactions from grown men and women in a theater of war would be.
Almost immediately, email began arriving, specifically mentioning the Beanie Babies. Stories were as varied and inventive as the great American ingenuity that inspired them. Soldiers told of Beanie Baby squad mascots, creative naming projects, competitive games centered upon the latest Beanie Baby, and on an on and on. Truly, even Carolyn was shocked at the overall success of the Beanie Baby project. Humorous diversions in hellish circumstances, of course, are as old as war itself, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.
But then, startling revelations began to arrive at the OpGrat headquarters, and the Beanie Baby project took on a whole new meaning. They were actually saving lives and helping to win the war.
Some of our truly exceptional, brilliant soldiers had the idea to trade the Beanie Babies with Iraqi children for information on hidden IED’s. The children, so bereft of toys, gladly showed soldiers where explosives were hidden in exchange for the coveted cuddly critters.
Soldiers saved by a toy, proving once again that God truly works in mysterious ways. Who could have imagined this?
Returning Soldier Gets Memorial Jeep
In January, I wrote about Operation Gratitude and Carolyn’s trip to Iraq, where she and her right-hand man, Charlie Othold (USAF ret), went to personally deliv
SPC Michael “Shaun” Gallagher, who received the keys to his new Jeep (registered trademark) Liberty in Iraq, within the 300,000th OpGrat care package, thankfully just returned with his unit to Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was presented with the actual vehicle this past Tuesday, July 1st. Not only did this soldier receive the promised Jeep Liberty, he also got a promotion the same day, to Corporal.
Our fearless Troop Mom, together with Shaun’s terrific family and the folks at Chrysler, had the memorial mural painted before our brave soldier returned home to receive it. When I saw the picture, I cried a bucketful; I’m crying another right now. Here’s what the memorial says:
In Memory Of The Fallen Heroes Of Alpha Company 2.23 Infantry
Joseph Landry III
Donald Valentine III
Luigi Marciante Jr.
(photo credits: Operation Gratitude)
“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.
Operation Gratitude, We Salute You!
Every day, without fail, I thank God for my freedom, and for every single man and woman who serves to protect it, every veteran of every branch of the service, and every family member whose many sacrifices go unheralded. And, especially on this 4th of July, our Independence Day 2008, I wave my flag, light those sparklers and cry with joy and thanksgiving for the sacrifice of the millions who’ve made our liberty possible.
But today, I want to pay a special tribute to America’s Troop Mom, Carolyn Blashek, and the thousands of American volunteers, who with their consistent hard work and unsung love, show special fortitude on the home front, “a flank in our war against terrorists, which we cannot allow to go unguarded” (LtCol (ret) Steve Russell).
So, today, Operation Gratitude, this salute’s for you!
May God bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you and all you do for every American. We could not make it without you!
If you wish to join me in supporting Operation Gratitude, please visit their website and get involved today. Every single penny donated is used for packaging and shipping expenses. Not a single dime goes for advertising, promotion or fundraising activity. Letters, cards, donations, prayers and the names of soldiers serving in harm’s way make you part of the OpGrat team.
Kyle-Anne Shiver is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. She welcomes your comments at kyleanneshiver.com.
One of the most effective groups at work on behalf of our troops is Operation Gratitude, an assemblage of Americans who put aside every difference among them in the common cause of loving our soldiers. Since its founding in 2003, this one group of all-volunteer supporters has sent 300,000 care packages to our troops serving in harm’s way.
And all of it started because one American mom decided that she could not sit idly by in her safe, comfortable home doing nothing while our young men and women willingly left safety and comfort behind to fight for the rest of us.
Carolyn Blashek, founder of Operation Gratitude, has become for all intents and purposes, America’s Troop Mom. She and her mission to minister to the morale of our troops through her simple, but ingenious, “care” packages are living proof of Basil King’s famous injunction: http://www.online-literature.com/basil-king/
“Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”
Mighty forces, both seen and unseen, have indeed come to the aid of Operation Gratitude in its essential mission of showing our soldiers we all do care.
And those mighty forces just keep on coming, time and time again, in the most unlikely “coincidences,” from the most unlikely sources.
Mighty Forces Take Carolyn to Iraq
In late December last year, when Operation Gratitude’s holiday drive was in full gear, with hundreds of volunteers packing thousands of packages, and carefully addressing each to an individual soldier overseas, Carolyn realized that a mission milestone would be reached within the month. The 300,000th package was nearing assembly and its recipient was already named by the computer’s data bank.
One of OpGrat’s mighty forces had already donated the keys to a brand new Jeep Liberty for the recipient of this milestone care package. And the excitement among the volunteers was palpable.
Coincidentally, the soldier picked by the computer to receive the 300,000th package was a member of the brigade under the charge of Major General Hertling, commanding general of Multi-National Division North in Iraq. Carolyn Blashek and Major General Hertling go all the way back to OpGrat’s founding in 2003.
In the beginning, when Carolyn was merely bold, she had no mighty forces. But she had enough boldness to be mighty in her own right, and she got ahold of the General’s name through channels, and sent him an email asking for the individual names and addresses of all the soldiers under his command, so that she could send them each a care package from home.
The general now says he thought she was a bit out of it at the time, and wrote back simply: “Ma’am, I don’t think you know who I am or how many soldiers I have under my command. I currently have a force of 39,000 soldiers,” thinking that would be the end of it.
But our Troop Mom wrote back to the general, quite boldly indeed:
“General, I don’t think you know who I am.
Just send me the names and addresses and I will make sure every one of them receives a care package from us at home.”
When the 39,000 packages arrived as promised, and the general saw the amazing effect they had on the morale of his troops, he immediately became a treasured mighty force on the side of Operation Gratitude. And as soon as he was notified that one of his own soldiers was slated to receive the 300,000th package, he immediately set things in motion that would coalesce in bringing Carolyn Blashek and her trusted right-hand man, Charlie Othold (USAF, ret), to Iraq to present the package with the keys to the Jeep in person.
Now getting to the middle of the war zone would be nearly impossible for the ordinary American citizen. But with a decorated general in the lead and his own mighty forces covering your flank, neither paperwork nor bureaucracy are supreme obstacles, and you land in Iraq hoping you remembered to pack your hair dryer.
The War through a New Lens
In Iraq, Carolyn found that it’s one thing to view the war, our soldiers and their mission through an often non-supportive media lens. But it’s quite another to don full body armor and set off for the desert on a Black Hawk helicopter for a genuine birds-eye look around.
For Carolyn Blashek, Troop Mom, who spent 2 days on the ground in Iraq in January, the experience imparted a profound new meaning, not only to her own mission of sending care packages to our soldiers, but also to her perspective on the war itself and our national mission in the Middle East.
True Mom that she is, Carolyn spent most of her time and energy in Iraq delivering packages and hugs, love and reassurances to every man and woman in uniform who crossed her path.
Two Unforgettable Experiences
Carolyn says she had two experiences that truly changed her forever and reinvigorated her resolve to serve from home until true peace with justice can be achieved.
The first experience was a memorial service for six American soldiers and one Iraqi, all of whom had lost their lives in a house-born IED explosion. While the war itself is 24/7, dusty, dirty, smelly and bloody, the memorial service is military pageantry. Civilization in the face of enemy barbarism.
In a desert field, with no shade for solace, men and women of exceptional civility and honor gather to pay their last respects to their own fallen heroes. No detail is spared. Each life lost is given the profound reverence that is due. And each soldier present is given the chance to speak, to pay tribute to the life that has been given so selflessly in the cause of liberty. The generals salute the heroes. The crisp, clean gunshots are heard piercing the silent reverie of those who remain on watch. The brave are sent home to their families for the real grieving to begin.
And the war goes on.
But all who have seen the cost with their own eyes are forever changed, will be forever more diligent in their own meager sacrifice, so that the fallen will not have died in vain.
Anyone Can Carry an IED
How does a Judeo/Christian civilization fight a war against those for whom our ideas about civilization and honor are meaningless?
Those who would take the life of an innocent young child or a mentally impaired adult, and use that life itself as a weapon, define this war. Among this enemy, all human life is expendable, deemed worthy only in sacrifice.
Al Qaeda forces in Iraq have demonstrated over and over again that there is no limit to their brutality in pursuit of their jihad.
Carolyn Blashek now understands this foe, and her understanding dawned in an instant, even as she stood in a village under heavy armed guard, wearing the weighty body-armor designed to protect.
Major General Hertling needed to inspect a road in the north that had been recently cleared. For five years this road had been blocked by Al Qaeda and their hidden IED’s, preventing all commerce and help for the tiny village of Khan Bani Saad. Readers may remember that this is the village where our soldiers found videos showing Al Qaeda training children to bear arms and fight their battles.
While the men of the village bombard the General with their demands for this new building project or another, Carolyn tells me she tried to take in the surroundings and observe the people. Several groups of young children cluster at a short distance, eagerly watching the unusual sight of the American General with his soldiers.
Carolyn smiles at some of the children. That Mom’s smile that serves in place of the hug she would rather offer them. Then, she spies a young adult Iraqi male, and he is staring at her. She is frightened and looks away, back at the children. And one of them, a young boy makes eye contact with her and begins walking towards her, away from the group of children. She looks back at the young man, still staring, and back again at the approaching child, still intently watching her.
And suddenly her breathing stops as the question forms:
Is this child harnessed with an IED? Am I about to die?
The answer that time to the question formed by our soldiers every day as they work in and among the villagers, was “No.”
Carolyn did not die in Iraq. She came home safely. But she is still haunted by this second experience, that moment in the little village. She says that it profoundly altered the way she views this war.
General Petraeus understands that if we desire to prevail, then our forces cannot remain behind fixed lines, embedded in fortified bases, but must walk among the people, gain their confidence, rebuild their country and help them learn how to build a free society. But in doing this, our men and women who serve are presented every day with those moments of do-or-die-right-now peril.
And yet they remain a civilized people in a land beleaguered by an uncivilized enemy.
And it is obvious that mighty forces are indeed coming to their aid.
This is not the media lens through which we at home view the war, but it is the one our Troop Mom, Carolyn, now carries in her heart every day and every night, never to be forgotten.
Originally printed in American Thinker
James Dicks Magazine, February, 2008 by Jack Lott
One of the special moments that help to break up the daily routine for military forces assigned in far away places is the excitement of receiving a care package from home. Just like when you first went away to college, a care package could turn an ordinary day into a day to remember…
At the age of 19, I was assigned with the U.S. Air Force in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam Conflict and actually received a care package from a VFW group in the Midwest. It was greatly appreciated and brought us all a bit closer to the home we missed. Sadly, the only time we ever received anything like this was during the holidays. So, today’s military members who receive an Operation Gratitude package from home “just because” actually have their daily routines turned into very special events. That’s extremely important for these young military members going through this current difficult period in their lives. Blashek said, “I want it to be Christmas all year round for our troops. What could be better?
To read the entire article: Preserve, Protect & Defend pages 18-21.
“You’re so worn out, so physically and emotionally spent that you don’t think you can do it anymore,” Carolyn Blashek says.
“Then you open your mailbox or receive an e-mail, and there it is again – another little miracle.”
Another thank-you note from a lonely soldier far from family and home who just received one of your Christmas presents. He needed a lift, and you gave it to him.
You read all these little miracles and you’re not tired anymore, Blashek says. You’re reinvigorated and ready to do whatever it takes to make sure every soldier away from home for the holidays gets a personally addressed package with gifts and letters from school kids wishing they come home safe and soon.
Blashek started Operation Gratitude more than four years ago from the living room of her Encino home. She began writing company commanders overseas on her own, asking them for the names of soldiers who were not getting any mail from home.
“I had heard that there were soldiers getting nothing from home, and that just wasn’t right,” she said. No, it wasn’t.
As the number of soldiers grew, so did the number of local elves – more than 1,000 now – who volunteered to help Blashek with her Operation Gratitude holiday drive at the National Guard Armory in Van Nuys.
In the past four years, incredibly, they’ve packaged and sent holiday presents to more than 300,000 servicemen and -women.
Inside the 300,000th soldier’s package, which should arrive a few days after Christmas, there is also the set of keys to a 2008 Jeep.
I wrote about one of those little miracles Blashek is talking about for the USA Weekend Magazine edition Sunday, but because of space limitations I couldn’t tell the whole story.
Now I can.
“All the e-mails I get from soldiers are special, but this one was the most powerful,” Blashek said. “This one broke my heart.”
It was from a staff sergeant who asked that his name and unit and the soldier’s name not be used because he didn’t want the soldier “labeled” by his superiors.
“Although the Army preaches that nothing will be held against a soldier who threatens or thinks about killing himself, even if he gets help, I’ve been in long enough to know they do have a negative label put on them,” he wrote.
The soldier in his platoon never got mail, care packages or anything from home, the sergeant wrote. He was estranged from his family and the only packages he got were labeled “to any service person.”
He began to feel exactly like that. Not an individual, but a nameless soldier – an “occupant,” the sergeant said.
“He was planning suicide on Christmas. We found that out after he finally opened up and talked to the chain of command about what was going through his mind and finally got help for his depression.”
What changed his mind, his superiors wanted to know? The soldier told them he came back to his barracks alone on Christmas Eve (last year) and saw a package on his bunk.
He picked it up expecting to see the label “to any service person” on it. Instead, he saw his name staring back at him.
He opened the package and read the letters from kids addressed to him, and he began to cry. Over the next month, the soldier sought counseling and reached out to his family back home to reconcile their differences.
“Over my deployments I have lost a few soldiers in the platoons I have taken into combat,” the sergeant wrote Blashek. “I have lost a few friends that I have known my entire Army career.
“It’s always heart tearingly hard to write the `letters’ to the families and loved ones. What words can ease the pain?
“I don’t know if I would have the strength, or even what to say to the family of a soldier who had taken his own life.
“But one package, one present from you containing some little things and a few letters from kids made a huge impact in a human’s life.
“It made the difference between a soldier walking down an airplane ramp to the waiting arms of loved ones, or being carried down in a flag draped metal box to their tears.
“You’ve let an old sergeant bring one more of his soldiers back home safely, and for that I am forever in your debt.”
Little miracles on Christmas Day.
‘Tis the season to be jolly and joyful, and one of my greatest personal joys this year has been corresponding with some of our soldiers on the front lines of America’s defenses in Iraq and Afghanistan. In all my years of motherhood, I have never seen such a steady demonstration of courage, sound reason and deep passion emanating from any group of young people.
Van Nuys, CA-Operation Gratitude presented the first annual NATIONAL FREEDOM AWARD to retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Hal Moore at the National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, California on December 1, 2007. Joined by We Were Soldiers Once and Young co-author Joe Galloway and the movie adaptation’s director Randy Wallace, hundreds of Military personnel and volunteers gathered to pay tribute to the General’s renowned career. Several Cavalry Veterans who served under Moore’s command surprised the General, and arrived wearing their revered Stetsons, the hallmark of the Cavalry.
“This experience was a most moving and sincere gathering of Americans, drawn together out of deep love and respect for each other, for our troops and for our nation,” said Lt. General Moore. ”I accepted the National Freedom Award on behalf of all those in harm’s way who ensure our continued freedom and to whom we pay great tribute.”
Serving as the ceremony’s distinguished speaker, Lt. General Moore deeply touched the crowd as he recounted his dramatic return to the scene of the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam. Eric Weider, publisher of the Armchair General and Operation Gratitude Magazines relayed part of General Moore’s moving speech in his online forum that night:
“General Moore became overcome with emotion and tears as he recalled visiting LZ Xray with Joe Galloway and others of his troopers in 1993.
At night he walked the perimeter and recalled the men in their foxholes and trenches…”Don’t worry Colonel they won’t get through us” he heard them say. Painfully, now in 1993, Moore knew which of those brave young men would be killed in the next morning’s assault by the North Vietnamese Army.
As Moore stood by the ant hill that marked his command post he vividly recalled the dead men laying under their ponchos with only their boots poking out…awaiting evacuation.
Lt. General Moore stood on that hallowed field for a minute of silence to remember all the dead of the conflict on both sides. At that moment, his opponent from the Ia Drang battle, Vietnamese Lt. General An, approached Moore and kissed him on both cheeks. Thirty years earlier they had been trying to kill each other.
That night a meteor shower of several hundred shooting stars went on for about 10 minutes. Moore and Galloway believe those stars were the souls of all those lost at Ia Drang.
They stayed the night at LZ-XRAY because a monsoon blew through and no helicopters could fly in to retrieve them. The next morning, the Vietnamese Army was sent in to rescue them. Lt. General Moore exclaimed it was quite a jarring sight to see 150 Vietnamese Soldiers in their brown uniforms carrying AK47s emerge from the jungle. But this time it was to save, not kill them!”
Throughout the day, General Moore met and spoke with hundreds of soldiers, Marines, airmen, and volunteers. One soldier’s response typified the sentiments of most attendees. “I read We Were Soldiers in Boot Camp. I just couldn’t wait to meet Lt. General Moore.” While shaking hands, another soldier excitedly told the General, “I have read every history book that exists about you. I would serve under you any day!”
General Moore joined Operation Gratitude volunteers on the Assembly Line as they continued their Holiday Drive to ship 70,000 care packages by year-end to troops deployed in combat zones. “I will be forever moved by the greatness of Americans,” states Moore. “It was very uplifting to stand shoulder to shoulder with more than 800 volunteers to assemble care packages for our troops. For all the ugliness that comes at times, there are great examples of genuine goodness – and Operation Gratitude is that many times over.”
A special gift was included in every care package this year-General Moore’s new book,A General’s Spiritual Journey, a compelling treatise describing his spiritual journey from childhood to his golden years. Moore also autographed copies of the “Journey” for the volunteers to take home.
“This day changed my life,” said one volunteer. “I am so inspired to do whatever I can to show my admiration and respect to the members of our military.”
Marine Staff Sergeant Scott Richardson, who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, flew in from Michigan for the opportunity to meet General Moore. “While deployed, I received an Operation Gratitude gift box, as did many of the soldiers here today. Opening that box felt like I had a little piece of home with me out there in the desert,” Richardson stated. “After spending the day with Lt. General Moore and so many hundreds of energized volunteers, I am motivated to go back to Iraq or Afghanistan to do my part-again-to do whatever it takes to defend our freedom. These Americans are the reason I love serving my country,” he said.
On December 15, 2007, Operation Gratitude will celebrate another milestone: the shipment of it’s 300,000th care package since its inception! Several Military and political dignitaries, celebrities and corporate sponsors will be in attendance as the Volunteers assemble the 300,000th package and learn of the special gift to be included. The 200,000th and 250,000th packages contained the keys to new vehicles.
The excitement will begin at 9am when the Assembly Line starts production; the 300,000th package is expected to hit the line at about 11:30 a.m. A short Ceremony will take place at that time, followed by the mass Photo Op, a special lunch, product samples and fun activities provided by generous corporate sponsors.
All media and volunteers (ages 12 and older) are welcome to attend the Celebration at the:
On December 1, 2007, Operation Gratitude will present the first annual NATIONAL FREEDOM AWARD as a tribute to American troops around the world who have freely sacrificed their own comfort and safety in order to serve our nation. The organization has chosen a true hero, retired United States Army Lieutenant General Hal Moore, to be the award’s inaugural recipient. General Moore’s renowned career has been celebrated by many within the military community. Both on and off the battlefield, he has been an advocate and friend to American troops.
General Moore coauthored the New York Times #1 bestseller We Were Soldiers Once…And Young, the stirring, visceral account of his experience as a battalion commander in
“We are honored to present our first NATIONAL FREEDOM AWARD to Lt. General Hal Moore. Through his selfless service to Country, his commitment to his faith, and his dedication to his soldiers, Lt. General Moore exemplifies American courage and resolve in pursuit of the cause of freedom and thereby inspires and encourages others to serve our Nation,” says Operation Gratitude founder Carolyn Blashek. “We are humbled by, and deeply appreciative of, Lt. General Moore’s embrace and support of Operation Gratitude.”
The ceremony will take place at the Army National Guard Armory in
As a very special gift to be included in every Holiday Care Package, General Moore, through the generosity of Wild Goose Ministries in Vail, Co., has donated 70,000 copies of his most recent inner story, “A General’s Spiritual Journey.” This beautiful work represents Hal Moore’s faith-filled journey from childhood to the battlefield and into his golden years, as told to, and memorialized by, his friend and “Driver.”
WHAT: Presentation of the First Annual National Freedom Award to Lt. General Hal Moore
WHEN: Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 12 Noon. Press are asked to arrive no later than 11:30 a.m.
Lunch will be served immediately following the ceremony; Book-signing to follow. Press are invited to stay for lunch and the book-signing.
Corner of Victory and Louise
Operation Gratitude Delivers Aboard Big E
Story Number: NNS070821-01
Release Date: 8/21/2007 8:00:00 AM
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jamica Johnson, USS Enterprise Public Affairs
ABOARD USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) — Sailors aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) (Big E) were fortunate enough to receive more than 3,500 care packages Aug. 11, from Operation Gratitude.
Carolyn Blashek and her staff of volunteers at Operation Gratitude, a foundation located out of Encino, Calif., sent the packages.
“The command master chief received an e-mail directly from Operation Gratitude,” said Chief Religious Program Specialist Quatrez Scipio, Religious Ministry Department’s leading chief petty officer. “Carolyn Blashek basically told him about her program and how they like to send packages typically to ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they were interested in doing some type of project with a ship that was deployed. From there, I sent her the ship’s roster and they got started on the packages.”
Volunteers collected food items, compact discs, letters of appreciation, playing cards and much more, which were placed in boxes and shipped out to the Big E.
“They were so excited to send us these packages. Each package [varied in price, ranging from] $30 to $40 to [initially] put the package together and an additional $10 to send off, which is amazing,” said Scipio. “So then were looking at roughly $50 a package for over 3,000 people, so this is definitely a major undertaking but they love doing it for the Sailors.”
“It was an unexpected gift that I really appreciated, the timing could not have been better,” said Personnel Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ernest Prior. “It had a lot of great things that I really needed. It’s an amazing gesture for people back home to show their gratitude through this program.”
“Inside the boxes the [sender's] e-mail address and a Web site [were included]. We definitely encourage all the Sailors to send an e-mail greeting, send a simple e-mail to let them know how important and valuable this service is to us Sailors and Marines,” said Scipio. “It’s a wonderful thought when people do things like this in support of the service members and freedom around the world.”
For more news from USS Enterprise, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn65/.
By Samantha L. Quigley American Forces Press Service
|WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2007 – Thousands of servicemembers get care packages with surprises in them every day, thanks to caring folks back home. Some of the surprises, however, are bigger than others.
Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit troop-support group, celebrated the packing of its 250,000th care package by teaming with Tri-State Jeep Dealers Association to put Army Spc. Alfonso Sanchez in the driver’s seat of a 2007 Jeep Patriot Limited.
“We were thrilled to give a Jeep Patriot to a true American patriot,” said Carolyn Blashek, Operation Gratitude’s founder. “It is an honor to be able to recognize him and, through him, all servicemembers in uniform.”
Operation Gratitude is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
Sanchez, who received the package containing keys to the Jeep on July 24, is assigned to the 16th Military Police Brigade, which is serving in Iraq. He will receive the actual vehicle upon his redeployment to the states, hopefully by the end of the year, Blashek said.
Not expecting any packages, Sanchez didn’t initially respond when his name was called.
“When they called my name, I was shocked, stunned, and I froze for a second, double-checking that my last name was Sanchez,” he said. “The first thing I saw when I opened the box was a Jeep brochure, but they give those at the post exchange.
“I expected anything else but this vehicle,” he said. “I don’t have enough words, but with all my heart, thank you (Operation Gratitude) for all you do.”
The package also contained a letter from Blashek explaining how her group was able to provide such a special “goodie” in their milestone package.
Sanchez won’t be the only one who will receive a Jeep Patriot vehicle, however. Jeep, Major League Baseball’s New York Mets and a New York television station launched a letter-writing campaign July 15. Letters of support for the troops will be accepted until Sept. 17, when one lucky letter writer letter will be randomly chosen to receive a Jeep Patriot. That person’s letter will then be sent to Sanchez, as well. The winner of the letter-writing campaign will be announced during a Sept. 30 pre-game ceremony at Shea Stadium in Queens, N.Y., Blashek said.
“We are proud and humbled to contribute to a great organization like Operation Gratitude that does so much good in support of our troops,” Eric Neilsen, president of the New York Dealer Association, said. “The Jeep was originally developed to serve our military, and we are very pleased to be able to continue this tradition in a small way.”
(Army Spc. Beatrice Florescu contributed to this report.)
Operation Gratitude mails 250,000th package – 16th MP Soldier receives keys to new 2007 Jeep Patriot Blackanthem Military News, CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – Operation Gratitude celebrated its 250,000th care package in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with a surprise 2007 Jeep Patriot Limited giveaway for one recipient of the 16th Military Police Brigade during a ceremony at Al Faw Palace July 24.
Army Maj. Kristian Sorensen, civil affairs officer, 16th MP Bde., submitted a roster of Soldiers to Carolyn Blashek, Operation Gratitude’s founder, who coordinated the surprise.
The 250,000th care package was addressed to Sorensen since he submitted the roster. Inside this package was another package with the recipient’s name.
The recipient was Army Spc. Alfonso Sanchez, who initially didn’t sound off when his name was read because he was too surprised, he said. Sanchez opened the box and found a brochure, a letter, a few baseball hats and the keys to the vehicle.
“When they called my name I was shocked, stunned and I froze for a second double-checking that my last name was Sanchez,” he said. “I expected anything else but this vehicle. The first thing I saw when I opened the box was a Jeep brochure, but they give those at the Post Exchange. I was immediately nervous and shaky and couldn’t speak when I saw the keys. I don’t have enough words, but with all my heart thank you for all you do. Thank you.”
Operation Gratitude is not new to OIF or the unit, Sorensen said. He found out about Operation Gratitude in his first deployment and thought he had to share this with his unit in his second tour.
“These are excellent programs; it feels like Christmas every time,” Sorensen said. “It makes everyone feel good. Operation Gratitude, thank you very much. It does make a difference. It means a lot to us to know there are people thinking that we are all in this together. The great thing about this is both the servicemember and the support-letter writer will receive a set of keys.”
A letter from Blashek was enclosed in the package explaining how this initiative was created and coordinated. A partnership between Jeep, the New York Mets Major League Baseball team, a New York television station and New York auto dealers associations helped put both a servicemember and a support-letter writer each behind the wheel of a new vehicle.
“We are proud and humbled to contribute to a great organization like Operation Gratitude that does so much good in support of our troops,” stated Eric Neilsen, president of the New York Dealer Association, Sanchez read from a pamphlet. “The Jeep was originally developed to serve our military, and we are very pleased to be able to continue this tradition in a small way.”