What makes an Assembly Day so special?
I have been with Operation Gratitude for four years. During that time I attended more than 30 Assembly Days, where I witnessed an incredible sense of commitment and absolute selflessness from the 600 to 1,000 volunteers who spend a Saturday or Sunday morning with us each month. I am privileged to meet amazing volunteers from all around Southern California, and even from across the country! When the volunteers arrive at our facility, they are greeted by our team of “Blue Shirts” – a special family of volunteers who have been with Operation Gratitude for years – some for decades – who guide other volunteers through the different activities.
There’s so much excitement in the air when you enter our facility in Chatsworth, CA, a.k.a. The “FOB” (Forward Operating Base). Volunteers from all walks of life join us to assemble Care Packages, make Paracord “Survival” Bracelets, stuff Battalion Buddies for children of deployed Troops, prepare Recruit Graduate Medallion Kits, and screen and write letters. It is also wonderful to see our volunteers forging strong bonds with the Veterans and First Responders from the community, as they work together on a variety of activities throughout the FOB.
Every volunteer has a story to share. I remember Annette, a dedicated volunteer who traveled all the way from Quincy, Illinois to California to take part in an Assembly Day! Annette works with the Great River Honor Flight, a non-profit that transports Veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. After participating in an Operation Gratitude Veteran Care Package delivery during an Honor Flight, Annette was so moved that she decided to make the trip to see us in person and experience first hand the tangible aspects of saying “Thank You” to all who serve.
Annette shared her experience from the Honor Flight delivery with us and our community of volunteers:
“We handed the packages out to our Veterans at a preflight meeting before their actual Honor Flight. Most of the Veterans seem to be a little hesitant to open them as they somehow feel that they don’t deserve them, but once I convinced someone to open his box most of the others followed suit, like little kids at Christmas. I myself could not believe what was included in each box. It blows my mind to know that everything has been donated. In this crazy mixed up world of ours it’s nice to know that all in all, people still have good hearts and really do care especially when it comes to our Veterans. Thank you to everyone at Operation Gratitude for putting your best foot forward in making this part of honoring our Veterans.”
From time to time, we involve family members directly in the creation of their own service member’s Care Package– special moments that demonstrate the full impact of Operation Gratitude’s mission, The family packs the final Care Package of the day, destined for their loved one currently serving overseas. Handwritten letters from the family, photos were taken during their volunteer day, along with a Paracord Bracelet made by a loved one are included inside the special Care Package that they seal, address, and place on the dock for shipping. What a surprise it will be when their loved one opens it and finds letters from grateful Americans all across the country, and a special note from mom or dad, their spouse, and/or their own kids! This shared experience, and the excitement and anticipation of the recipients’ reactions when they receive and open their Care Packages is what Operation Gratitude is all about!
This is just a glimpse into what an Assembly Day looks like, but you really must experience it for yourself. Start by watching this short video from February 2019: What Makes a Typical Operation Gratitude Assembly Day? and then come join our army of volunteers!
Don’t live in the area? Operation Gratitude is coming to a city near you, soon! Click here to learn more.
We are excited for you to join our team. Together we will make a difference in the lives of our Military, Veteran, and First Responder heroes. We look forward to seeing you at the FOB and nationwide!