27,000 Expressions of Gratitude

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, America celebrated Veteran’s Day and paid it forward to the millions who have and continue to make a difference, whether it be at home or around the globe.

Operation Gratitude continues to bridge the military-civilian divide through volunteerism and ended up creating over 27,000 care packages to deliver to veterans, surpassing the goal of 20,000 with coverage in all 50 states and Washington D.C. 

Richard Headley, the Senior Director of Military and Veteran Programs at Operation Gratitude, said that it was “fantastic to see our team come together to make such a huge impact nationwide. Due to the outreach plan, I had the opportunity to speak to veteran organizations in just about every state in our country. The one common theme is that we never want our veterans to feel they are forgotten, and this year, we made sure that did not happen for thousands of veterans.” 

It’s not just a thank you and it’s not just a care package: these expressions of gratitude let veterans know that they are not alone and not forgotten. Operation Gratitude opens the dialogue between Americans and communities of military,veterans and first responders in regards to  service and understanding empathy. It lets them know we are looking out for them and thankful for their commitment to service.

An anonymous recipient was able to relive his fond memories of his trip to Washington with the Rocky Mountain Honor Flight and how people thanked him for his service. “When we returned from Vietnam, I remember the negative reception and bad press we received. It is times like this and the things people like you at Operation Gratitude do that overrides the bad times and lets one relive the good times.”

John Small, another Vietnam veteran who received a visit from the Honor Flight crew, felt “proud to display the sign they gave me for my yard declaring that a ‘Veteran lives here.’” Adding that it would not have been a good thing to do when he returned from serving in Southeast Asia back in the 60’s and 70’s.

The distribution of care packages this year was especially impactful, as the world is still in the midst of a pandemic, and many veterans and their families have found themselves isolated.

J, who is a Navy veteran, said that they’re “recovering from many afflictions and, at times, when no one is around, I feel lost and even forgotten. But today, Praise God, I was reminded that kind and loving hearts are out there caring for us. Thank you, Operation Gratitude volunteer, Jenna Rafferty, for every warm stitch in this scarf!” 

Some other recipients like veteran D.S., who after receiving a box of goods from a stand- down event in Atlantic City, wrote “as I was looking through it, it occurred to me that I had never received a care package from anyone when I was active duty. It made your beautiful gift that much more special. Thank you for caring for and sharing with the veterans.” Another recipient C.V, was “overwhelmed by the receiving of the gifts, letters and the drawings from the children;” and WD, whose husband is a retired Army vet, said that it was a “great surprise for my husband to receive a bag of goodies from you today” and to “read notes from kids all over the U.S.” She told us that she is always proud of her husband’s service career and expressed that it was nice to see veterans recognized.

Veteran’s Day is officially celebrated once a year, but there is no limit on remembrance, gratitude, or service to one’s country.

Visit Operation Gratitude’s virtual volunteerism page to participate in their second wave of gratitude!

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When I look back at my journey over the past 3 years and 8 months as the CEO of Operation Gratitude, the one thing that sticks out the most are the hugs.

They are etched in my memory forever — literally thousands of hugs at hundreds of service projects and community-building events — on too many trips, and in too many cities to count, from sea to shining sea.