When we started the new year, I hoped that the need to support our Deployed Troops and Frontline Responders would wane. As we returned from the holidays, I hoped and prayed that our fight against COVID would end and service members who faced extended deployments would come home.
Yet four weeks into 2021, and the need for Operation Gratitude has grown — not waned. In the weeks leading to the 2021 Inauguration, we supported 6,800 police officers in Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department and NYPD and 25,000 National Guardsmen deployed to our nation’s capital because they needed us.
The fact is, on average, we have impacted more than one service member every minute of the day, thus far, in 2021.
This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who knows Operation Gratitude. Two years ago I wrote an email just like this one, asking all of our volunteers to make every minute count and help us deliver a care package every minute of the year.
Many people thought this call to action was impossible — an unachievable stretch goal. Yet, here we are two years later, and that is exactly what we have done with your help over the past 730 days. We’ve impacted more than ONE MILLION servicemen and women and their families.
It certainly isn’t surprising to me. I have seen — in our growing army of passionate and dedicated volunteers across the country — the extraordinary strength and the true potential of this organization. With YOU, everything is possible.
Together, we have met every challenge and every demand for one reason: our volunteers recognize that every day must be a day on, as long as our men and women in uniform face the same reality.
Long-time supporter and Operation Gratitude Ambassador Janice Chance has embraced this reality since her son, Marine Captain Jesse Melton III, was killed in Afghanistan on September 9, 2008. For Janice, every day has been a day on since his death, as she strives to honor her son’s legacy of service by serving others.
It is not surprising to me either that fate brought Janice to Operation Gratitude two years ago on January 17, 2019, at the DC National Guard Armory when we first announced our Make Every Minute Count campaign. That day Janice was one of 400 volunteers who assembled 17,400 Care Packages in just a few hours. I will never forget meeting her for the first time and hearing her story.
Janice’s service with Operation Gratitude has grown ever since. A few months later she joined me and seven other volunteers to deliver care packages to every police officer, firefighter, and EMT in Baltimore County, Maryland. Month after month, week after week, day after day, Janice continues to serve with us and now commits much of her time as one of eight founding volunteer Ambassadors.
Our team has stood side by side with her at multiple assembly days in DC, at deliveries of care packages to First Responders and homeless Veterans, as well as at several events with Gold Star Mothers nationally and locally near her home in Maryland.
Janice Chance’s choice to serve with Operation Gratitude has had a rippling effect. As a result of her passion for our mission, dozens of other Gold Star Mothers have joined our movement, too. Janice’s actions also inspired her daughter, Army Veteran Jenine Melton, to embrace our cause, which in turn, led to their story of service with Operation Gratitude being featured on PBS with celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich. This trailer that I’m sharing with all of you is a sneak peek at an hour-long PBS documentary that will air on February 12th.
The truth is: Janice has helped Operation Gratitude more than she will ever know. In addition to touching the lives of thousands of our recipients and inspiring others to join our family of volunteers, Janice has touched and inspired me and other members of our team like Paul, Danielle, Monica, and Rich.
This was particularly true during 2020 — a year characterized by a global pandemic, social unrest, racial and political divides, and extremely long hours for our small but mighty team. With her words and with her actions, Janice was always there to lift us up emotionally and spiritually. Her unyielding faith, devotion to service, unending kindness, and boundless encouragement gave us the courage, strength, and resolve to carry on with our mission. It is because of Janice, and volunteers like you, that we will continue to make every day a day on, even when we are tired and fatigued.
While my hope for a brighter year has not yet been realized, I am still full of hope that you will make every day a day on with Operation Gratitude and help our Frontline Responders and Deployed Troops who are fighting through the same tiredness, fatigue, and exhaustion in unthinkable conditions.
As a result of our sustained efforts to impact more than a half-million Frontline Responders since the outbreak of COVID last March, we are in desperate need of letters for First Responders and Healthcare Heroes. My request for you is simple, please take some time this week to write a few letters of appreciation to police officers, firefighters, doctors, and nurses serving your community and mail them to Operation Gratitude for distribution in our care packages.
Based on what I saw in the eyes of frontline responders in Washington DC and NYC over the past few weeks, I can tell you that your actions and a simple “thank you” will go a long way.
Let’s continue to make every minute count, as we have for the past two years, by making every day a day on with Operation Gratitude!