The Every Day is a Day On series spotlights volunteers at Operation Gratitude who are moved to action to support servicemen and women, their families, and first responders.
The sixth blog in this series features Lori Carroll, a retired Navy veteran, and caretaker who currently lives in Florida. Lori has been crocheting for 47 years, sharing her talents with a multitude of charities. She brings that experience to Operation Gratitude by crocheting hats and scarves. Lori is an active member in our Facebook group, Operation Gratitude in Action.
This is Lori’s story…
Lori Carroll joined the Navy because she wanted a way to leave town after high school. Lori shipped out two weeks after her first visit with the naval recruiter. Her first station was Midway Island. Later, combatants were opened to women, and Lori was positioned on a destroyer.
In 1982, as a second-class petty officer, Lori got her first ship, the USS Vulcan. There weren’t many ships for women to receive. Not built to accommodate a mixed crew, women weren’t allowed to serve on combatants. Lori retired after serving for 20 years.
Lori’s family also served. Her dad was in the Air Force during the Korean war. When he retired, he worked as a civilian for the Department of the Navy in the same building Lori later did. Lori’s brother also served in the Navy after much convincing by his sister.
After her naval career, Lori settled in Central Florida and started volunteering with local charities. She dedicates much of her time to Project Linus, a charity that provides blankets to children experiencing trauma. On a crochet cruise, Lori met Donna, a fellow Project Linus volunteer. As the two became fast friends, Donna talked about her grandson in the Marine Corps. Donna described Operation Gratitude and the volunteer work she did–crocheting hats and scarves for service members.
When asked about the impact of care packages, Lori wishes there was something like Operation Gratitude back when she was serving. She mentioned a fellow shipmate who worked as a postal clerk, who never received mail. Lori shared her personal letters from home with her shipmate. Instead of reading Lori’s, that shipmate could have received goodwill and warmth from a generous stranger back home.
“What you’re doing makes a difference for somebody who’s out there putting it on the line, or missing their family, or missing the birth of a child,” said Lori. “It makes a huge difference to those receiving. They are making servicemembers’ lives better by what they get in the care packages. It’s not just stuff. It’s not just something store-bought. Somebody took the time to sit there and make a hat or a scarf or write a letter.”
She feels her mission is to try and get more people to see the value and benefit of volunteerism. It’s not about recognition, it’s giving your full heart because you can and because you want to. When someone receives a care package, they get the warmth from somebody caring.
Letters give those serving moments of levity. There is nothing too mundane, because these are experiences they haven’t had or experienced, especially while on duty. Just sharing everyday living experiences makes a huge difference.
When Lori was serving, she used to stock up on colorful stationery, pens, and stickers for the letters and cards she’d send back home. It’s rare to receive letters these days, and Lori considers letter writing a lost art. Those receiving letters have the opportunity to learn about where and how people live, whether it be in the rainy Pacific Northwest or on a farm in North Carolina; places they may never have a connection to otherwise.
It has meant a lot to Lori to be able to help first responders and healthcare workers. There has been an incredible amount of death and tragedy this year, and those men and women are on the ground every day working to save lives.
If there was ever a time to volunteer for Operation Gratitude, it’s now. Lift up those who need it while being part of a tight-knit and hopeful community that supports our military and first responders.
Lori feels that those who serve in the military “learn so much and gain so much. We learned a lot of life lessons that translate into what we do today.”
What she does for Operation Gratitude, she does for those following in her footsteps. She hopes she’s shown the way–shown what leadership looks like and what it means to lead from the front.
This post was written by Jake Kelly, a communications intern at Operation Gratitude. Jake is from the Chicago suburbs and is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut pursuing a Bachelor’s in Journalism & History with a minor in Political Science.
Read more in the Every Day is a Day On blog series.