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Wounded Warriors

Adventures of a Warrior Who Never Quits…

If you’ve been following Operation Gratitude on this blog, or our Facebook or Twitter pages for more than a few months now, then you’ll remember reading about Sgt. Eric Rodriguez, a remarkable young man and combat wounded veteran who was the recipient of our 750,000th Care Package in December, 2011. 

Sgt. Rodriguez doesn’t slow down for much — most of us would have trouble keeping up with him! The Marine Corps recognizes his special abilities and recently named Eric to the 2012 All-Marine Warrior Games Team,  competing April 30-May 6 for the Chairman’s Cup against teams from the Army, Navy and Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations Command.

In between physical therapy for his injuries, training for competitions, and being an active and involved husband and father, Eric has found time to enjoy some of the gifts that were included in his special milestone Operation Gratitude Care Package. He has been the honored guest of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kings, UCLA, and the Dodgers, with more exciting adventures to come soon!

Please stay tuned for more updates but for now, enjoy these photos of a true American hero, USMC Sgt. Eric Rodriguez!

Note: Operation Gratitude sends care packages to Wounded Warriors recovering in Military hospitals and Warrior Transition Units. Learn more about this program and how you can support our efforts here: Wounded Warrior Program.

THANK YOU, Sgt. Eric Rodriguez, for your brave service to our country. You make us all so very proud!

THANK YOU to all our generous donors, volunteers and corporate sponsors whose support allows us to honor, thank and encourage service members like Sgt. Rodriguez.

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Happy Anniversary, Operation Gratitude!

On March 19, 2003, Operation Gratitude got its start in the living room of its founder, Carolyn Blashek. Four care packages were shipped that day. Nine years and more than 760,000 care packages later, we thought we would take a trip down Memory Lane to reminisce and appreciate all that has been accomplished thanks to the help, generosity and dedication of countless friends, donors and supporters…

      

Operation Gratitude quickly grew too large for the Blashek home. The charity moved to the California Army National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, CA…

      

SSG Elizabeth Cowie was our “Armory Angel” who made it all possible for Operation Gratitude to use the armory facilities…Here she is (pictured, right) at the armory with her mother…

As more and more volunteers joined in, Operation Gratitude sent more and more care packages…

  

We would finish up at the assembly line and form a human conveyor belt to load up the trucks…

    

…then we’d take the care packages down to the post office…and unload them to be shipped…

    

…and start all over again!

  

While much has changed over the years — we’ve added the Battalion Buddy and Wounded Warrior and other programs – what has not and never will change is our commitment to deployed troops who have volunteered to serve our country. We will continue to honor, thank and support them with care packages lovingly-filled with goodies and treats from home. 

                           

…It is their amazing work and sacrifice that makes our work worthwhile.

Thank you to all our troops, past and present…and thank you to all who have helped Operation Gratitude over the years! 

To get a really good idea of how Operation Gratitude has grown and changed, please watch these “oldie-but-goodie” videos…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02tcb7b34do&feature=plcp&context=C4bcde8cVDvjVQa1PpcFMpZd2Jc6uAR0jBX_okUaiyq6d0CipydeY%3D=640&h=385]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C7u2d6g2Vs&feature=plcp&context=C4fe777dVAvjVQa1PpcFMpZd2Jc6uAR7cS0ONI3Xdug-1-TZtliO0=640&h=385]

As always, THANK YOU for your support!

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Your Support Makes All This Possible!

THANK YOU! Your generosity makes it possible for us to put smiles on the faces of hundreds of thousands of:

  • Heroes in harm’s way
  • Wounded Warriors
  • Military Children anxiously waiting at home
  • Military families & Veterans facing financial distress

At least 200,000 U.S. troops are still deployed in harm’s way throughout the world. We continue to send to them our individually addressed care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items, hygiene products, and personal letters of appreciation.

In addition, Operation Gratitude has started several new programs in response to developing needs within the Military Community. Here’s a brief description of these exciting developments:

Troop Care Package Program: Since 2003, we have assembled and shipped over 700,000 packages to deployed Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. This year we plan to send another 75,000+.

Battalion Buddy Program: We have sent over 50,000 cuddly stuffed animal “Battalion Buddy” packages since May, 2011 to the children of deploying service members. We plan to send another 50,000+ in 2012. Word of our Battalion Buddy program has spread rapidly throughout the family readiness community and we have thousands of orders waiting to be filled! (Family Readiness Officers and battalion leaders wishing to request Battalion Buddy packages should send an email to: BattalionBuddy@gmail.com.)

Wounded Warrior Program: Our “Purple Heart” Care Packages provide comfort items to troops recovering in Military Hospitals and Wounded Warrior Transition Units.

First Responder Care Kits: Essential supplies are collected, assembled into easily transportable kits and provided to emergency response teams deploying into crisis situations.

Military Family Care Packages: Basic necessities, including food, toiletries, household products, blankets and clothing are given to Military families and veterans facing financial hardships and homelessness due to unemployment.

Concerts that Care & Hiring Fairs: We are producing free comedy and music concerts for troops and their families plus opportunities to connect with potential employers on Military bases around the country.

We rely on the generosity of the American people to continue these efforts in support of heroic troops, veterans, wounded warriors, first responders and military families. Please consider ways you can be involved by making a financial or product donation or by joining us at the armory and volunteering your time. (Live out of the Los Angeles area and can’t volunteer in person? There are many ways to be involved from ANYWHERE in the country. Find ideas here: Take Your Pick!)

Find more information at our website: Operation Gratitude or send questions to opgrat@gmail.com.

Once again: THANK YOU for your support!

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Doing What We Can to Help our Heroes and Their Families

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander.

Many U.S. Military veterans and their families are facing extraordinary financial hardships during this time of worldwide economic upheavals. In late 2011 Businessweek reported that the job crisis is dire, citing for example that the youngest of veterans, aged 18 to 24, had a shocking 30.4 percent jobless rate in October, way up from 18.4 percent a year earlier.

Joblessness often leads to homelessness and our veterans are not immune from this frightening reality. 

According to the Veterans Administration: “Current population estimates suggest that about 107,000 veterans (male and female) are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions…”

While we can’t solve all the problems our veterans and their families might face, we want to offer support and encouragement where we are able. For the past several months, in cooperation with the leadership and chaplain corps of National Guard units nationwide, Operation Gratitude has assembled and distributed thousands of Military Family Care Packages (MFCPs) to Soldiers who cannot find civilian jobs and/or who are homeless, living in cars.

Additionally, MFCPs have been delivered to homeless veterans organizations and VA hospitals.

These care packages contain donated non-perishable food; personal hygiene products (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc.); household items (soaps, detergent, etc.); gift cards to stores like Target, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens; toys for children; clothing and more, valued at over $100 per package.

With generous assistance from our corporate sponsors and individual donors, we will continue to support deployed troops serving in combat zones and on Navy ships. We will also continue helping veterans and military families — with MFCPs, Battalion Buddy packages and Wounded Warrior packages — as long as there is a need.

Please consider joining our efforts to support these heroes who have selflessly given so much of themselves fighting for our country. Online financial donations may be made here: Donate Now.

For more specific information regarding the types of in-kind donations we accept for the MFCPs, please send an email inquiry to opgrat@gmail.com.

THANK YOU!

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Volunteer Schedule: January – June 2012

Winter Schedule: Jan. 3 — Feb. 29, 2012

Weekday Hours:
Mondays & Fridays: 9-4
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays: 12-4

CLOSED:
Mon., January 16 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
Mon., February 20 (Presidents’ Day)

Special Fridays:
 Jan. 20 and Feb. 24 – Labeling
All other Fridays: Battalion Buddy Prep/Assembly

Patriotic Drive Schedule: March 1 — June 30,2012

Product Deliveries / Donation Drop-Offs:
March 12 — May 21 during our listed hours of operation only.

Weekday Hours:
Mondays & Fridays: 9-4
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays: 12-4

CLOSED:
Fri., April 6 (Good Friday)
Mon., May 28 (Memorial Day)

Special Friday: March 30 – Labeling if needed  

Weekend Dates & Hours (All Assembly Days 9-4; All Prep Days 9-12):
Sun. March 4         Prep 9-12
Sat. March 24        Prep 9-12
Fri. March 30        Labeling if needed
Sun. April 15          Down & Dirty Mud Run-Lake Castaic
Sat. April 21           Prep 9-12
Sun. April 22     Assembly 9-4
Sat. April 28          Prep 9-12
Sat. May 5          Assembly 9-4 (Big Sunday Weekend)
Sat. May 12            Prep 9-12
Sat. May 26        Assembly 9-4
Sun. June 3           Prep 9-12
Sat. June 16       Assembly  9-4
Sun. June 24         Prep 9-12
Sat. June 30      Assembly 9-4
Sun. July 1             Yard sale  TBD

IMPORTANT — Please Note: These dates and times are subject to change. Please sign-up for our email list and/or check our website, Facebook and Twitter pages for last-minute updates/changes. Thank you!

Volunteers age 12 and up are welcome to join us at the armory!

If you live in the Los Angeles area and would like to volunteer in person, please email our Volunteer Coordinator prior to the event at: OpGratVolunteer1@yahoo.com. Write “Operation Gratitude Volunteer” in the subject line. State day(s),
shift(s), number of volunteers and email addresses.

For more information about volunteering, please take a few moments to visit our website’s Volunteer Info & Schedule page. For the armory address and all other details, please email our Volunteer Coordinator: OpGratVolunteer1@yahoo.com. Please be sure to put “Operation Gratitude Volunteer” in the subject line.

Thank you for your support!

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Celebrating Another Operation Gratitude Milestone

All across the country, we will have cause to celebrate on Saturday, December 17, 2011 as the 750,000th Operation Gratitude Care Package rolls off the assembly line at the National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, California!

Up to 1000 volunteers and supporters are expected to join the Operation Gratitude Assembly Day for this Milestone Celebration. Volunteers and Supporters like you make all this possible. We could not touch the lives and hearts of so many of our courageous service members and their families without you.

With your help this past year, we launched two new programs: Wounded Warrior and Battalion Buddy Care Packages. Due to the popular demand for these packages, Operation Gratitude shipped a record 150,000 care packages in just one year…. This brings us to our 750,000th care package!

The Assembly Line will open at 9 a.m. We expect the 750,000th package to hit the line at around 11:15 a.m. PST, to the cheers of up to 1,000 Volunteers, Military members, Dignitaries, Legislators, and Celebrities. When that happens, we will halt all activity, gather everyone together, and start the Celebration!

In addition to the standard items and personal letters provided by more than 250 corporate donors and by individuals and volunteer organizations across the country, the 750,000th Care Package will include Top Secret Surprises for a Top Secret Warrior, brought to us by none other than Santa Claus. Expect exciting and classically American gifts donated by our Corporate Partners to be put in the Milestone box. Six previous Operation Gratitude milestone packages contained the keys to new vehicles (motorcycles and SUVs)! A special delivery of the 750,000th Package is being arranged as we speak.

As part of the Milestone Celebration, there will also be a variety of delicious product samples and a hearty lunch, provided by Corporate and local business donors.

Volunteers (ages 12 years and up) are invited to assist in the on-site care package activities.

Please keep in mind, Financial Donations are still needed to pay the assembly and postage costs of $15 per care package.

Every tax deductible donation of $15 sends another care package, personally addressed to an American hero, and filled with 50+ assorted snack, entertainment and personal care items valued at $100 or more.

Please ensure that every Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine deployed in harm’s way, and every recuperating Wounded Warrior, feels loved and appreciated this holiday season. Please donate online today.

If you prefer to send donations by check, please make payable and mail to:

Operation Gratitude
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, California 91436

Thank you again for your tremendous support of our mission. We hope you will share the excitement of our 750,000th Care Package Celebration!

Location:
California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Corner of Victory and Louise

Time:
Care Package Assembly: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Celebration and Lunch: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
We invite you to stay for lunch following the celebration and to continue assembling packages until 4 p.m.

More Links:
For additional volunteer information:
Volunteer
To learn how you can help:
Support Activities
Donate while you shop: Great Ideas
To Request Care Packages for Deployed Troops: Request Packages

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Breaking: Update on Marine Needing Kidney

Thursday, 8/11/11 – More news: Jake continues to recover well from the surgery. Today the name of Jake’s kidney donor — a Marine,  2nd Lt. Patrick Wayland, of Midland, Texas — was made public, along with information regarding the circumstances of his death. One life lives on in another — please pray for this young man’s family and read the full story here: MILITARY: San Marcos Marine receives gift of life from late comrade

Monday, 8/8/11 – We are thrilled to report today that Sgt. Jake Chadwick received a transplanted kidney Sunday afternoon at the UCSD Medical Center in San Diego. The initial report following surgery was that the procedure was successful and that the transplanted kidney started to function immediately! This is wonderful news for Jake, his family and all his loved ones and supporters. While Jake still has a way to go towards full recovery, we hope that he will get out of bed and take his first steps down that road as early as today. Prior to surgery, Jake was in high spirits and very much looking forward to returning to a healthy life. There can be no doubt that with his dedication to his family, with his wife’s love and dedication to him and with the loving hand of God, Jake is now on his way towards that goal!

Due to confidentiality policies, there is little known about the donor. What we do know is that the donor was a 24-year-old member of the Armed Forces who passed away due to non-combat related issues. We do not know the name of this person or the branch of service in which he served. We do know that several of his organs were donated to save the lives of many others. This hero continues to serve, even in death, so that others may live. While we do not know this soul by name, we can honor his memory by keeping him and his family in our prayers, and thanking them for their selfless consideration of others during a very difficult time.

The Chadwicks hope to one day meet the family of this hero, and express their gratitude for the gift of life given to Jake. They would also like to express their gratitude to the many people who helped raise awareness of Jake’s need. We believe the donor’s family learned about Jake’s situation through the myriad e-mails, phone-calls, tweets, blog and Facebook posts that all of you promoted through social media. Your efforts brought Jake’s need to the donor family’s attention, and with that knowledge, the parents specifically requested that Jake receive their son’s kidney. For all of you who helped in any way, thank you, thank you, thank you!

There is so much more to be said, but sometimes emotions can be overwhelming. This is one such moment. Please keep the Chadwicks in your prayers, as well as the donor and his family as they all endeavor to travel their respective paths. May God bless them all.

Please visit the National Kidney Foundation for more information about transplantation and living donors.

Find Operation Gratitude on Facebook… follow us on Twitter… watch our inspiring YouTube videos… and sign up for our mailing list to stay up-to-date on all our efforts to support deployed troops, wounded warriors and military families.

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Operation Gratitude Wounded Warrior Care Package Program

Operation Gratitude Extends its Outreach to Our Wounded Warriors

Having already shipped more than 600,000 care packages to service men and women deployed in combat zones, Operation Gratitude is pleased to announce a new program tailored to those wounded in service to their country.

Operation Gratitude will begin providing special Wounded Warrior Care Packages to service members recovering in Military Hospitals and Wounded Warrior Transition units located on military bases throughout the United States.

Prior Wounded Warrior helps others heal at Brooke Army Medical Center WWTU

Further, in recognition that the Wounded Warrior often expresses deep concern for their buddies remaining on the front line, Operation Gratitude will send care packages on behalf of the Wounded Warrior to the rest of his or her unit still deployed downrange.

“We hope that sending those packages to their deployed comrades will help the wounded feel they are still contributing to the mission and supporting their buddies” according to Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek.

Wounded Warrior Transition Units (“WWTU”) provide critical support to the wounded and their families, focusing on those requiring six months or more of rehabilitative care and complex medical management.

Operation Gratitude Wounded Warrior Care Package deliveries will begin in February.  Patients at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center and soldiers in the WWTU at Ft. Polk, Louisiana will be among the first to receive the shipments.

“Here at the Soldier and Family Assistance Center (SFAC), we provide the non-medical support to the Wounded Warrior and their families assigned/attached to the  Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Polk,” explained an SFAC Specialist.  “Your care packages will go a long way in letting the Wounded Warriors here at Fort Polk know that people care.”

Operation Gratitude’s annual goal is to provide 10,000 of the Wounded Warrior Care Packages filled with specially selected items donated through the generosity of corporate sponsors and supportive citizens, and assembled by the organization’s dedicated volunteers.  More packages will be assembled and shipped if requested.

According to representatives at Wounded Warrior facilities, the most needed items are: Healthy Snacks, Entertainment items, Hygiene products, iPods and Gift Cards from chain stores such as supermarkets, drugstores, Target and Walmart.

As with its Care Packages to deployed troops, Operation Gratitude will provide every American a way to express their appreciation and encouragement to our heroes wounded in combat by donating items, contributing funds, crafting hand-made items and writing letters.

Operation Gratitude is particularly requesting personal letters of support and encouragement in order to include several in each package.  For information on writing letters: Letter Writing Flyer

For those wishing to thank a Wounded Warrior, letters and items can be sent to:
Operation Gratitude
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Attn: Wounded Warrior Program

For more information on how to support Wounded Warriors and troops deployed in harm’s way, visit:  How You Can Help

Financial donations can be made online here: Donate to Wounded Warriors or by check made payable and addressed to:
Operation Gratitude
16444 Refugio Road
Encino, CA 91436

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