Everyone Has a Role To Play

This is a special post written by Nicole Ferry, Special Agent in the CSX Police Department and veteran.

Following in my grandfather’s and uncles’ footsteps, I always felt the call to service. At 17, I responded to that call by joining the Army National Guard. After completing boot camp training, I transitioned to the Police Academy and kicked off my 23-year career in law enforcement. 

For the past 10 years, I’ve served as a Special Agent with the CSX Police, overseeing the Northeast region. While my roles have shifted over time, one thing has stayed the same: my passion for actively filling the gaps where my community needs me most. I love my work, and I also love to volunteer.

Photos of N. Ferry in uniform.

Early on, as a local police officer, I noticed a lack of accessible emergency medical care in my community. It was scary to know there were limited resources for those who need it most, which inspired me to get certified as an emergency medical technician. I’ve always tried to look for ways I could help. Along those lines, I learned that many of my active-duty colleagues in the CSX Police Department struggled to balance military and civilian life. So, I developed a program and became the military liaison between the employee, their family, and the company to act as an ally and help identify and fulfill their biggest needs.

Photos of people standing together.

May is Military Appreciation Month, and as both a veteran and a colleague to many members of the military, I believe it’s important to honor those who protect and serve our country and communities. Some might think this month is only for military families and their closest acquaintances, but I believe this month is for everyone – we all have veterans and military families in our lives or our communities! 

Below are a few thoughts and examples on ways we can all recognize this important month. 

First, SEE the military and veteran members of your community. 

One of the most important things you can do is to identify and learn more about those in your community who are service members. Even if not in your inner circle or your own neighborhood, there are veterans, active duty personnel, reservists and national guardsmen — as well as first responders and other frontline responders — all around us. 

It’s natural to be more aware when you live in a military town with well-known bases. However, those in the National Guard and reserves, as well as veterans and their families, are integrated into civilian towns, neighborhoods and schools where they may not always feel as at home. My coworker, Tom Gonzales, mentioned the isolation that can be felt when not surrounded by others in similar situations. It’s up to our civilian neighbors to help bridge that divide and to make sure every military family feels connected to their broader community. 

May is Military Appreciation Month, and as both a veteran and a colleague to many members of the military, I believe it’s important to honor those who protect and serve our country and communities.

In addition, your employer may have veterans on staff. Many companies also have employee resource groups to create inclusive spaces for members of the military and veterans. Find out if yours has one! They may be organizing something this month or throughout the year that you can get involved in. At CSX, nearly one in five employees has actively served, and I’ve found that supporting my colleagues directly can be very rewarding.

Group standing in front of the Capitol Building in DC.

SUPPORT them and their entire network, on the homefront. 

There are many ways you can support military members and veterans here on the homefront. The sacrifice these families face can be challenging emotionally and financially. Acknowledging that sacrifice, offering gratitude, and lending a hand can go a long way. 

For example, CSX’s community investment program, Pride in Service, is focused on supporting the entire family unit by providing events and resources to increase feelings of belonging, connecting military families with their civilian neighbors, offering job training for spouses, providing critical financial assistance and delivering gifts of gratitude. Last month, Operation Gratitude and CSX delivered 5,000 Battalion Buddies to military children, a program aimed to give military kids comfort when their parent is deployed.

As a military liaison for my coworkers, I try to ensure “one call does it all.” You can call me, and I’ll take care of anything the family may need while my colleague is deployed. We send gifts for kids’ birthdays, we celebrate wedding anniversaries, we help take care of tasks around the house, and more. These little things add up and make the whole family feel like they have a broader support system surrounding them.

Young girl standing with an Operation Gratitude Battalion Buddy bear.

SERVE them, while they serve our country and communities.

While support on the homefront is key, we cannot forget to acknowledge all of our deployed troops this month — those overseas, as well as those serving on US soil, in pandemic-related and other activities in your city or state.  

You and some recruited helpers can get involved in serving our deployed troops directly through Operation Gratitude year-round by writing letters, making paracord survival bracelets, or helping assemble care packages. I just ordered 100 paracords to make these awesome multi-use bracelets for troops overseas. If you’d like to join me in sending them to our troops, you can order your own right!

Though it may seem small to send a care package overseas, it can make a significant, lasting impact. While my colleague, Tom, was overseas, we arranged to have CSX send holiday packages to all of the members of his unit. The packages ended up arriving on Christmas Day, and Tom relayed to me how meaningful it was, especially for the younger soldiers without families of their own to send them gifts that holiday season. It’s these moments that really highlight how important it is to give back. 

Throughout my life of service, whether that was in the military or in law enforcement as a CSX Special Agent, I have always taken action to support the needs that I recognized. This month — and any month — reach out to the service members in your community and show them that you not only see them, but you are also here to support them and that you are happy to serve them! No act is too small!

Volunteer From Anywhere

Volunteer From Anywhere

Volunteers are the heartbeat of what we do at Operation Gratitude. We couldn’t accomplish our mission without the support of grateful Americans across the country.

Join us at an event as we open our doors to volunteering. The safety of our volunteers and recipients is our top priority.

Volunteer with Your Company

Volunteer with Your Company

Partner with Operation Gratitude to organize a customized employee engagement event at the location of your choice.