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Building Bridges with Our Nation’s Heroes

Every time I am at one of our service projects or care package deliveries I can see the potential for Operation Gratitude to forge strong bonds and build bridges with our nation’s heroes and their families in communities nationwide.

I say this after a week when Operation Gratitude made a massive impact for deployed service members around the world, as well as first responders, healthcare heroes, and military families here at home. We said “thank you for your service” while looking into the eyes of hundreds of doctors and nurses, police officers, 911 dispatchers, and military families. We had meaningful conversations with them and saw firsthand the profound difference we made on so many of their lives. Here is a recap of our impact:

On April 13, we joined 30 volunteers and the Philadelphia Police Department to positively impact 900 healthcare heroes and every 911 dispatcher serving the community. One hospital administrator told me, “you have no idea how much we need this right now.”  

The very next day we joined 30 more volunteers in New York City to assemble 3,000 care packages that were delivered on April 15 to every police officer serving 16 NYPD precincts and commands in north Manhattan. A former Navy Corpsman who now serves in the NYPD drew an analogy to the challenges he and some of his fellow officers were facing to what he went through with Marines on an extended combat deployment.

Saying thank you and building bridges with unsung heroes in Philadelphia - 900 doctors and nurses and every 911 dispatcher received the appreciation of the American people on April 13, 2021.
Saying thank you and building bridges with unsung heroes in Philadelphia – 900 doctors and nurses and every 911 dispatcher received the appreciation of the American people on April 13, 2021.
3,000 NYPD Police Officers in 16 precincts and commands in North Manhattan were deeply touched by the appreciation of the American people on April 15, 2021.
3,000 NYPD Police Officers in 16 precincts and commands in North Manhattan were deeply touched by the appreciation of the American people on April 15, 2021.
3,000 NYPD Police Officers in 16 precincts and commands in North Manhattan were deeply touched by the appreciation of the American people on April 15, 2021.

From Philly and NYC to Arlington and Jacksonville

While we made an impact in two of America’s biggest cities, other members of our team and 40 volunteers assembled Operation Gratitude Care Packages for local military and veterans in Arlington, VA in partnership with Starbucks, Arlington Police, and Fire Departments, and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Our COO, Paul Cucinotta said he could see the bridges OG built that day between civilians and our military and first responders in the community where both our families live and work. 

That same day, Navy Spouse, Monica Shea, simultaneously delivered OG care packages to 140 Active Duty service members at a vaccination site in Jacksonville FL. She turned right around on April 18 and impacted 60 children of Sailors currently deployed with Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 74 with the help of our partner CSX, who are sponsoring the deliveries of a total of 5,000 Battalion Buddies to children across the country.

The children who received these cuddly stuffed bears are facing their second deployment without their parents in less than a year.  After returning from an extended 9-month separation due to COVID in September 2020, they deployed again two days after Christmas. Their return date is unknown.

140 active duty service members who have worked tirelessly at a vaccination site in Jacksonville, FL received a much-needed morale boost from Operation Gratitude on April 14, 2021.
140 active duty service members who have worked tirelessly at a vaccination site in Jacksonville, FL received a much-needed morale boost from Operation Gratitude on April 14, 2021.
Operation Gratitude and our partners at Starbucks bridged the civilian-service divide at a community service project that brought together civilians, military, veterans, and first responders in Arlington, VA April 14, 2021.
Operation Gratitude and our partners at Starbucks bridged the civilian-service divide at a community service project that brought together civilians, military, veterans, and first responders in Arlington, VA April 14, 2021.
Operation Gratitude and CSX joined forces near their HQ in Jacksonville, FL on April 18, 2021, and impacted 60 children whose parents have been deployed 13 of the last 17 months.
Operation Gratitude and CSX joined forces near their HQ in Jacksonville, FL on April 18, 2021, and impacted 60 children whose parents have been deployed 13 of the last 17 months.

A Call to Action: Serve Together and Stay the Course 

Our actions to build bridges with our nation’s heroes in local communities were punctuated by an opportunity to talk about the critical importance of what we do as an organization on Fox-11 Los Angeles in a live remote from a hotel sitting just 100 yards from the Freedom Tower in NYC. 

We called on the American people to recognize that our nation’s longest war is not over; that more than 200,000 service members will still deploy each year to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and U.S. Navy vessels on all seven seas. We asked them not to forget and to stay the course with us, as we say thank you to all who serve and build understanding and empathy about their service and sacrifice. 

Our team is asking you to stay the course with us, too, and go a step beyond saying “thank you for your service.” We’re asking you to help us build bridges between civilians and our men and women in uniform and their families in communities nationwide. 

The photos we took of bridges in Philadelphia, NYC, Arlington, and Jacksonville may appear symbolic. Make no mistake about it — the difference we made in each of these four cities is tangible. The impact of our actions is palpable. 

The bridges we built are real, and we will go back to those communities, again and again, to continue to make them even stronger. 

Thank you for being part of it!

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