This is a guest post by Air Force Spouse and Operation Gratitude volunteer Sara Field.
April is the month of the Military Child. This is very near and dear to my heart because I’m an Army brat myself, I am an Air Force spouse and I’m a mom to three military children of my own. We currently serve with the 32d Air Refueling Squadron at JB MDL in New Jersey.
Last year, I felt a strong conviction to celebrate the military children in our squadron with a special ceremony. As I began to work on this project, I stumbled upon Operation Gratitude and their Battalion Buddies program… and the rest is history!
The team at Operation Gratitude was full of enthusiastic support and they were more than willing to help us honor our little heroes. Kevin Schmiegel, the CEO of Operation Gratitude, took time out of his schedule to attend our ceremony in person and to hand-deliver a bear to every child in attendance.
The bears were adored by all of the kids and made them feel extra special!
After my first-hand experience working with the team at Operation Gratitude, I knew this was an incredible organization worth partnering with in the future. Little did I know that our military child appreciation ceremony would be just the beginning.
The modern military culture encourages service members to make community service a part of their military service. Within a few months of our military child appreciation ceremony, Operation Gratitude provided personnel within our squadron an opportunity to give back to their local community.
Though known for providing over a million care packages to deployed service members around the world over the years, Operation Gratitude also supports law enforcement and first responders in local communities. To that end, Operation Gratitude connected our squadron to an Assembly Day event with hundreds of other volunteers that made over 15,000 care packages for first responders in the Philadelphia area. The event was such a rewarding and positive experience for our team!
In October (2019), we learned about Operation Gratitude’s Halloween Candy Give-Back program. Once again, Operation Gratitude provided a way for the local community to connect with the military community. Several members from our squadron caravanned to a local middle school to pick up over 1,200 pounds of candy donated by the students there.
I’ll never forget loading up the boxes alongside the principal, the school staff, several proud seventh graders, and our squadron members. What a SWEET day! Over the next few months, our squadron successfully delivered the treats to deployed troops overseas.
This April, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of our squadron’s military child appreciation ceremony. Despite all of our preparation and anticipation, everything came to a halt with the spread of this new virus.
While this is certainly a unique and uncertain time, I soon realized that there’s much more spreading than this horrible virus alone. Despite challenges, people continue to develop creative solutions to problems they feel passionate about. Goodness, kindness, and courage continue to spread as well!
As a family, we felt that now more than ever, we needed to honor our little heroes and let them know they’re not forgotten during the month of the Military Child!
From an appropriate social distance and with all of the proper precautions, we successfully delivered Battalion Buddy bears, certificates of appreciation, and other gestures of love to over 35 families in our squadron over the past few days.
I would like to thank companies like CSX that partner with Operation Gratitude to help make the delivery of the Battalion Buddy bears a reality.
We continue to hear testimonies of the positive impact the bears have on the children who receive them. We are so grateful for the many ways that Operation Gratitude continues to impact all of those who serve.
During the month of the military child, we are especially grateful for the ways that Battalion Buddies help to honor our youngest heroes in such a fun and tangible way. COVID-19 canceled many events, and many restrictions remain in effect, but no virus can mar the beauty of service, commitment, and courage!