These past few days have been difficult for me as the CEO of a nonprofit that brings Americans from all walks of life together and bridges divides through a common bond of service, acts of gratitude, and meaningful engagements in communities nationwide.
Much like the challenges our nation faced last year as a result of COVID and the divides caused by racial injustice, I have struggled to find the right words to express what Operation Gratitude can and must do to help our country and our communities heal.
In January 1991, I sat in the desert of Saudi Arabia deployed with 2nd Battalion 10th Marines from Camp LeJeune NC for the Gulf War. As a young Second Lieutenant, I was a little scared—but most of all I missed my family as I spent my first holiday season away from them.
I know our COO, Paul Cucinotta, who spent four Christmas holidays away from his wife and four children over his 27 year career feels the same way—as do the other veterans and military spouses on our team who spent hundreds of birthdays, special occasions and holidays separated from their loved ones.
With just a few days until the new year, our unstoppable team is already preparing the first few shipments of care packages for Frontline Responders fighting COVID-19. We will recognize the sacrifices they made being separated from their loved ones and spending the holidays in hospitals, squad cars, fire trucks, and ambulances.
Our hope is you will consider making an end of year tax-deductible contribution to expand Operation Gratitude’s impact across the country this January.
For the past few weeks, we have been focused on the very reason Operation Gratitude was started 18 years ago — ensuring that Deployed Troops know they are not forgotten, especially during the holidays. Think about what we are accomplishing with you. In the midst of a global pandemic, we are working tirelessly to assemble and deliver 20,000 individually addressed Care Packages to service members in every corner of the world.
December 9, 2020 it will be three years since I joined our Founder, Carolyn Blashek, and 2,000 other grateful Americans at my first Operation Gratitude Assembly Day. What I saw that day took my breath away. In that moment I realized the true potential of this amazing organization that now impacts more than one million volunteers and a half million service men and women and their families each year.
Last week, with your help, Operation Gratitude was able to do the impossible. In the midst of a global pandemic, our team and our volunteers delivered care packages to 27,000 veterans in all 50 states and Washington DC.
We did more than just deliver care packages — we went a step beyond saying “thank you for your service.” We honored those veterans and their service by serving them. We lifted their spirits and gave them hope. We connected with and touched the lives of thousands of veterans who were homebound and isolated. We expressed appreciation to thousands more who heard those five words for the very first time. As one Vietnam Veteran in Baltimore told us “I will remember this for the rest of my life.”
The story in today’s post is very personal to me, and I am sharing it with you because it illustrates so clearly what many young men and women experience when they are deployed — many of them separated from their families for the very first time.