Do the Impossible

Last week, with your help, Operation Gratitude was able to do the impossible. In the midst of a global pandemic, our team and our volunteers delivered care packages to 27,000 veterans in all 50 states and Washington DC. 

We did more than just deliver care packages — we went a step beyond saying “thank you for your service.” We honored those veterans and their service by serving them. We lifted their spirits and gave them hope. We connected with and touched the lives of thousands of veterans who were homebound and isolated. We expressed appreciation to thousands more who heard those five words for the very first time. As one Vietnam Veteran in Baltimore told us “I will remember this for the rest of my life.”

Sometimes I worry that I won’t find the right words to perfectly express the profound impact you are making with your actions. All I can tell you is that, when I looked in the eyes of veterans of every generation last week and thanked them on your behalf, I saw recognition that their service will never be forgotten.

They were overwhelmed with the knowledge that grateful Americans everywhere appreciated the sacrifices they had made in service to our nation and took the time to serve them in a hands-on way and say “thank you.”  To put it simply, you changed their lives with your actions.

Oftentimes, I also worry that the words I write in these weekly briefings won’t perfectly capture the critical importance of what we are doing right now as an organization with you. 

I was reminded the day after Veterans Day, when five U.S. Soldiers were killed in Egypt, just how important our mission is and why we must step up our efforts to forge strong bonds and build communities that support our men and women in uniform. All five of the Soldiers killed on November 12th left behind families who will be without them this holiday season and who will mourn their loss forever. 

Sometimes I think we are asking our men and women in uniform and their families to do the impossible. Our nation has been at war for 19 years, and more than 200,000 service members continue to deploy annually. Year after year, a growing majority of military families feel disconnected from their communities and misunderstood by their civilian neighbors. Despite this widening gap, tens of thousands of service members will still deploy away from their loved ones this holiday season.

This is why we are asking you to do the impossible with us again, and help lift the spirits of 20,000 deployed service members this holiday season. Serve alongside us and make an impact on the lives of our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen deployed around the world during the holidays. Take action and go beyond saying “thank you.” 

As I write these words I realize this is what makes Operation Gratitude so special and like no other nonprofit in the country. We have demonstrated that every American, whether they wear a uniform or civilian clothes, wants to serve our country, and they want to serve one another. This is our common bond, and this is exactly how we will bridge the civilian-military divide and build stronger, united communities that support those who serve and each other. 

At Operation Gratitude, we believe that this solidarity of service is the best way for our country and our service members and citizens to find common ground. Our shared passion for service is what unites us as Americans. We have seen it firsthand at hundreds of community-wide service events that bring civilians, military, veterans, first responders, and their families together. 

This is why we have decided to pour our time and energy into highlighting how a grateful nation that serves together is a united nation.

Next week, with fellow Marine Veteran Sherman Gillums, Operation Gratitude will launch a new podcast called Solidarity of Service.  In the coming months, Sherman and I will feature true American patriots from all walks of life. We will talk to them about how they were called to serve in different ways and how they inspired others to serve, too. 

I do hope you have the opportunity to listen and hear about why we believe service is a common belief and a defining trait that all Americans share.  

If we work together — if we serve together — everything is possible.  Thank you for your support and for your continued service with Operation Gratitude. 

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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.