I was recently the subject of a blog, the result of which was an outpouring of emails thanking me for my service along with their enduring commitment to support Operation Gratitude. The overwhelming sense of pride when reading those emails brought me back to the beginning of my military career when letters from home were made me feel the exact same way.
It was December 1995. My daughter had been born earlier that year and I had already missed most of her first 8 months on this earth. I was about to miss her first Christmas as well.
The Friday afternoon before Christmas, things were quiet at the small base on Okinawa where my unit had been deployed for the past several months. I knew that this would be the final “mail call” before Christmas. It was hard to hide my emotions when I heard my name called, and I tried my best to walk up casually to claim my prize.
I received both a letter and a care package that day. The letter was in a red envelope with a special Santa Claus stamp perfectly affixed to the upper right-hand corner and “PHOTOS – DO NOT BEND” neatly printed across the bottom. Obviously from my wife. It was beautiful, a wonderfully detailed letter with stories and photos of my little girl’s “firsts” during the past several months. The package was a simple shoebox wrapped in brown paper. Inside were homemade rice crispy treats, chocolate chip cookies (my wife’s specialty) and a VHS tape with the last several episodes of “Friends” recorded.
On Christmas morning I woke up bright and early. I read my letter again and stared at the photos of my daughter as I reflected on these great treasures I had been given. Later that afternoon, I headed to the barracks to visit my Marines. To my surprise, almost half of my 50-man platoon hadn’t received so much as a lump of coal – no letters, no gifts, no homemade cookies in care packages – nothing. Initially, I felt guilty doting over the photos of my daughter and talking about my family back home. But, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the rice crispy treats, cookies and even the letter could be shared.
My final Christmas away from home was in 2014. That year too, I received a hand-written letter from home during the holidays – but many others did not.
Now my son (my daughter’s little brother) is a Marine. Soon it will be his turn to deploy, and although his mother and I pray that he will always be home for Christmas, we know that’s not likely. But, one thing is for certain, he and his Marines will always get letters from home during the holidays!
Simple words of encouragement, thanks, and support are exceptionally powerful.
This year, Operation Gratitude will send more than 25,000 of its signature Care Packages to our troops who are deployed overseas during the holidays. We’d love to include 5-10 hand-written holiday greetings in each one, but we need your help to make that happen. Since the process to receive, screen and sort letters take months, we need your holiday letters by the end of the summer in order to have them ready for our November and December shipments. So, break out your stationery and any leftover greeting cards from last year, invite your family and friends to join you, and let’s get to work!
Click here to learn more.
Send Christmas in July today!
And there is something else you can help us with today: This month alone, we are going to send 5,000 Care Packages, filled with thousands of Christmas Greetings, to troops currently deployed–so they can celebrate Christmas in July right now! These are the cards and letters that arrived too late to send for the 2018 holidays–but we never waste a beautiful note!
Every $15 donation will send another Christmas in July Package. We will also include a lovely tribute card from you in each package you sponsor with your donation.
Please help us send these 5,000 Care Packages now:
Thank you for your continuing generosity and support. Your letters and donations will have a huge impact on our heroes now and during the December holidays. We and they are most grateful.
Colonel, USMC (Ret.)
Chief Operating Officer