Eleven years ago I deployed for the last time as a United States Marine. I remember saying goodbye to my family at Dulles Airport and boarding a plane destined for the Middle East. Those last few moments – the hugs, the kisses, and the tears I shared with three boys who were 12, 11, and 7 at the time — are not easy to describe in words.
I fought back the same tears over the past few weeks when representing Operation Gratitude at the direct deliveries of Battalion Buddies to military children whose parents were deployed or preparing to deploy for extended periods of time.
In March I drove to Milton, PA, where our team and volunteers hand-delivered 302 Battalion Buddies to the children of deploying service members from the Pennsylvania National Guard, as they boarded buses to deploy to Poland for a year. A few weeks later on April 11, I joined families from the 32nd Refueling Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in my home state of NJ, and hand-delivered 60 of our cuddly bears to children at their special ceremony in recognition of the Month of the Military Child.
As I gave out the Battalion Buddies and saw the smiles on their faces, I couldn’t help but think of my three sons and how military children also sacrifice so much in service to our nation. It took my breath away as I thought about their incredible strength and resilience. And I was overcome with a tremendous feeling of pride knowing that I am a part of an organization that recognizes their extraordinary service and sacrifices, too.
Show Your Support
During this Month of the Military Child, Operation Gratitude has pledged to increase our support of military families and the Battalion Buddies program as a whole. This month under the leadership of Navy spouse, Katie Piedra, we delivered more than 1,600 bears to 18 active duty, Guard and Reserve units in eight different states.
This year alone, Operation Gratitude will deliver more than 20,000 bears to the children of deployed Troops with the help of more than 100,000 volunteers who will take part in making sure they are stuffed with love and care and appreciation.
The fact is, that incredible number could easily be doubled based on the number of requests we receive each week. As Operation Gratitude pledges to do more, we’re asking our corporate partners and their employees, as well as our volunteers across the country, to help us grow and expand our support of this important program for military families.
As the Month of the Military Child draws to a close, and as we look forward to the month of May which is dedicated to appreciation of our Military, we ask you to join our movement and help us demonstrate that actions speak louder than words.