Crossing the Finish Line

Last week America celebrated volunteerism. As a nation, we have a deep belief in and passion for service to our country, communities, and one another. Much of the critical support that nonprofits provide to those in need is made possible by volunteers. 

This is certainly true at Operation Gratitude. Without our volunteers, our organization would impact only a small fraction of the half-million men and women in uniform we touch each year. To put it simply, volunteers are the heart and soul of OG.

As I reflect on what we were able to accomplish from April 18-24 as a nonprofit during National Volunteer Week, I am humbled to be a part of this amazing organization that was built on the spirit of gratitude and service. 

It is truly remarkable to think about what our volunteers did last week, still in the midst of a global pandemic. 

The Director of our Handmade With Love Program, Kelly South, reported that nearly 28,000 paracord survival bracelets flowed into our warehouse from 1,862 volunteers across the country who participated in the 2021 Vietnam Veteran Paracord Challenge. This is more than twice as many bracelets and three times the number of volunteers who participated in the very same challenge in 2020. 

In just 19 days in April, volunteers helped Operation Gratitude and CSX team members prepare and deliver 1,160 Battalion Buddies into the waiting arms of military children in 13 states, with thousands more on the way to a dozen more states as I write this.

We also continued to make a difference for thousands of deployed troops around the world, as well as military families and National Guardsmen here at home. Here are just a few pictures of the impact we made on the men and women in uniform serving our great nation.

Operation Gratitude CEO talks to National Guard members and thanks them for their service.
Military kids cuddle their Operation Gratitude Battalion Buddies.

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 April closes out in just a few days, we are asking you to do two things:

  1. Write a handwritten letter of appreciation to a deployed service member, National Guardsmen deployed domestically, or a military family that is also serving and sacrificing for our nation
  2. Donate a care package to a deployed service member or a Battalion Buddy to a military kid left behind 

My pledge to you is simple. We will take the dollars and beautiful handmade cards and letters you contribute and directly impact 70,000 more service members and their families during Military Appreciation Month in May and Christmas in July!

These efforts will start next week in Georgia and North Carolina where our team and I will join volunteers to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of military families we touch with in-person deliveries. 

For all of you who donate your time, talent, and treasure to help us accomplish our mission, I promise to share plenty of photos with you personally during my travels over the next ten days. 

See y’all from the highways and the byways of the southeastern United States!

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Service & Motherhood: When Duties Collide

A recent study funded by Welch’s surveyed 2,000 U.S. moms and found their average workweek clocks in at around 98 hours. That’s the equivalent of two full-time jobs. Most will tell you it’s a labor of love, and while the dedication and sacrifice of that work alone is impressive, the picture changes when service to family meets service to country.

Supporting the Sacrifices of Those Left Behind

While my unit and I may be central to our mission, I can’t even begin to think about the task at hand without the support of my employer, my coworkers, my community, my wife, and, importantly, my four kids.

That’s why I wanted to take the time to recognize, celebrate, and raise awareness for the Month of the Military Child and the unseen sacrifices at home that surround many of our soldiers overseas.