This is a guest post by Jake Kelly our 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.
This past Memorial Day, my family and I sat down for our first Operation Gratitude Letter Writing to thank Veterans. After watching patriotic films, I was buzzing with thoughts and feelings. I was mindful of my own family’s service along with the thousands of men and women who have served and sacrificed.
The biggest thought running through my head was,
“What could I ever do that would be enough? How do I properly show my thanks?”
When my mind becomes too crowded, taking action helps channel my energy into something productive. I began to research volunteer opportunities relating to the military, but specifically Veterans. This is when I came across Operation Gratitude. I showed the Letter Writing opportunity to my mom and brother and they got excited.
Be impactful in a positive way
We sat down at the kitchen table in comfortable silence, all in our own headspaces. I struggled at first because, in my experience, some Veterans don’t want to be thanked. To them, they did what anyone would do to help their country.
Despite everything, I think Veterans see themselves as ordinary people who don’t want to be idolized. To many, their time serving is something they struggle to talk about with civilians, because we may lack an understanding their fellow soldiers don’t.
I wanted to get this right. I wanted to be impactful in a positive way.
People just want a bit of human connection
To make it a bit simpler, I pretended I was writing a letter to my grandfather. I never got to meet him. He was a Commodore in the Navy during the Korean War. I know he was a special man who loved his family, and I won’t ever get more than some old photos and stories from my mom’s childhood.
In my letter writing, I told strangers about myself. Who I am. What home means to me. I told them that I hoped they were loved, with warm memories of family and friends. I told them I hoped they were proud of their service but if they weren’t, that they set themselves free of that burden.
I realized that my letter writing didn’t have to be complicated. It needed to be a piece of positivity. This pandemic has created so much loneliness. People just want a bit of human connection.
Many Veterans might need some acknowledgment and hope for a better future. To know that their sacrifices are not futile. To know that America still has boundless potential.
When my family and I were done letter writing, we all felt lighter. It was an experience I would encourage everyone to become involved in. Such a small thing can make someone’s day.
There are thousands of service members and first responders who need support. Join us in Letter Writing to say Thank You to those who serve.