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Channeling the Holiday Spirit this Summer

Amidst the heat of the summer, an image of logs crackling in the fireplace and casting a glow on stockings hung above is probably the last thing to come to mind for most people. But for Operation Gratitude and our growing army of volunteers nationwide, the holiday spirit is always in our thoughts.

Together with CSX Pride in Service, Operation Gratitude celebrated Christmas in July by assembling 10,000 Care Packages for Deployed Troops across the globe. The packages deliver a much-needed morale boost to troops overseas and include handwritten letters of appreciation from grateful Americans, Handmade with Love items, snacks, and hygiene and comfort items. It’s a small reminder for these servicemen and women who are far from home that they are supported and appreciated.

The military tradition of Christmas in July began in 1944 during World War II when the U.S. Postal Service teamed up with officials from the U.S. Army and Navy, as well as greeting card companies, to encourage the public to send an early shipment of holiday gifts and cards to service members overseas. The intention was to diffuse the typical holiday mailing rush and boost troop morale. It was so well received that it continues to this day as an annual activity in many military communities. It’s a way for families to celebrate with service members who are deployed during the traditional holiday celebration period.

Christmas is a time of togetherness, but Operation Gratitude knows service members long for the familiar feeling of home year-round. Speaking from my own experiences, being away from loved ones on Independence Day and on summer vacation is just as difficult as during the holiday season.

Tradition, dedication and service to others are values held by CSX as well as Operation Gratitude. Over the past two years, we have typically teamed with CSX in person in key cities to connect heroes and their families to their communities and the resources and support they need. The partnership also connects CSX employees and their families with the heroes they want to thank and honor for their service. Through Pride in Service, CSX and Operation Gratitude create volunteer opportunities that deliver comfort and care to local law enforcement and firefighters as well as deployed troops and their children when gratitude is most needed.

In a year like no other, amidst the pandemic, Operation Gratitude and CSX continued to find ways to make a difference in the lives of service members by encouraging at-home action and virtual volunteering. This Christmas in July, CSX and Operation Gratitude partnered to register CSX employees to make paracord bracelets from the comfort of their own home, with their families and friends. Without the ability to come together in large-scale events, nearly 200 CSX employees individually contributed to make more than 3,000 bracelets for troops all over the country. These acts of gratitude may seem small, but they make a big difference to our men and women stationed overseas. This year, CSX employees also participated in an ongoing letter writing campaign, showing their support for service members all year round.

With the return of many troops in the coming months, we’ll have even more opportunities to support our nation’s heroes as they return stateside and begin the reintegration process into life here at home. Partnerships with companies like CSX, which is committed to supporting military families here on the homefront as well, are tremendously valuable in providing that support. It is important to join forces with others who recognize that the decision to dedicate one’s life to safeguarding their communities and their country has lifelong impacts and deserves continuous consideration and thanks.

Christmas is a time of togetherness, but Operation Gratitude knows servicemembers long for the familiar feeling of home year-round. With the help of CSX and one million volunteers, our organization will continue to deliver that type of comfort and recognition of our troops’ service and sacrifice. To continue this tradition of gratitude, CSX and Operation Gratitude will host an in-person packing event in Jacksonville, where CSX is headquartered, around the time of Veterans Day in November. The care packages assembled will support troops during the traditional holiday season.

To learn more about Operation Gratitude’s Christmas in July campaign and how to get involved, click here.

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Channeling the Holiday Spirit this Summer

Amidst the heat of the summer, an image of logs crackling in the fireplace and casting a glow on stockings hung above is probably the last thing to come to mind for most people. But for Operation Gratitude and our growing army of volunteers nationwide, the holiday spirit is always in our thoughts.

More Than Just a Hug

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.