A “Small But Substantial Blessing”

I can remember that feeling like it was yesterday — the pit in my stomach, the lump in my throat, and the tears streaming down my face — as I tried to console my three boys outside of Dulles International Airport. My heart ached knowing there was nothing I could do to comfort Luke, Karl, and Jack as I departed for the Middle East and my last deployment as a Marine in 2008.

Those same feelings brought me to tears on three occasions this past year when I joined local volunteers to deliver more than 400 Battalion Buddies to children of deployed and deploying Service Members in PA, NJ, and VA. As difficult as those deliveries were, I also felt a tremendous sense of pride knowing that those cuddly bears would bring immense comfort to hundreds of military children during challenging separations from their parents.

This past Saturday my pride swelled further and tears flowed abundantly when I saw these powerful photos and read this beautiful email from a grateful military spouse.

My husband is deployed and my daughter (who is 5) is struggling intensely with his absence. He is her hero and her very best friend and service is so spotty she can’t even talk to him. Today she got a package with a note and a little bear. It broke my heart to see her so overwhelmed by it.

She completely left her dinner, went straight to bed and snuggled “daddy” all night. This morning she sat him in her daddy’s seat and chatted to him at breakfast just like he was there.

Thank you for this small but substantial blessing. This really is so hard, and I’m just glad someone else understands.

With gratitude from a mother’s heart, Amanda

Of all our Care Package programs, this one touches me the most. As a 20 year Marine and as a father who spent long periods of time away from home, I wish I had the opportunity to give Battalion Buddies to my own three children.

While I can’t change that or the hardships they endured, I am honored to be part of an organization that will profoundly impact more than 20,000 military children this year like Luke, Karl, and Jack. That is made possible by the actions of more than 100,000 volunteers whose hands touch those bears and assemble them with love and care, as well as the generous support of corporations and individuals who fund the materials and shipments nationwide.

The fact is, with additional support, Operation Gratitude could make a tangible difference for thousands more military kids across the country.

As our nation’s longest war continues and tens of thousands of military children face the challenge of being separated from their fathers and mothers each year, Operation Gratitude will continue to recognize that they serve and sacrifice, too.

To learn how you can support our Battalion Buddies program visit our website.

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Channeling the Holiday Spirit this Summer

Amidst the heat of the summer, an image of logs crackling in the fireplace and casting a glow on stockings hung above is probably the last thing to come to mind for most people. But for Operation Gratitude and our growing army of volunteers nationwide, the holiday spirit is always in our thoughts.

More Than Just a Hug

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.