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.
For Operation Gratitude and our growing army of volunteers nationwide, the holiday spirit is in full swing this month as we celebrate Christmas in July! With the help of one million volunteers, our organization will continue to deliver care packages year-round as a physical representation of appreciation for our troops’ service and sacrifice.
We are one, indivisible. Today we fight together as part of the greatest fighting force the world has ever known. Today we fight for freedom. I am sharing those words with you, our growing army of volunteers nationwide because you are the stars and stripes of Operation Gratitude.
They marveled at our unprecedented impact during a global pandemic saying, “You truly made a difference everywhere!” And yet again, Operation Gratitude will be everywhere, leading a reemergence of hands-on, in person volunteer opportunities across the country.
In July, our unstoppable team and dedicated volunteers will assemble and ship Operation Gratitude’s signature “Christmas in July” Care Packages to 20,000 deployed Troops in more than 30 countries and U.S. Naval vessels globally.
I know the civilian-military divide may be unthinkable to some, but it is real. And while I’ve heard from a few volunteers that they were upset to learn an overwhelming majority of our troops and their families feel misunderstood, we must ask “what more can we DO about it?” As we approach 9/11’s 20th anniversary, Operation Gratitude is redoubling our efforts to address this issue and taking steps to measure the impact of what we are DOING to solve it.
When all is said and done, during April — which happens to be both the Month of the Military Child and National Volunteer Month — we will do more than any other organization in the country when it comes to impacting the lives of military kids, as well as volunteers of all ages and from every walk of life. But we need your help crossing the finish line.
As you read these words, there are moms and dads saying goodbye to their kids at airports just like I did on January 25, 2008 when my oldest son Luke turned 13. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was on my way to Israel where I would spend the better part of my final year as a United States Marine. My youngest son, Jack, who was then 7, cried inconsolably, clutching the back of my neck and refusing to let go.