Each year Operation Gratitude receives tens of thousands of Beanie Babies from grateful Americans across the country, and one goes in every single care package we send to service members deployed around the world.
We made them a signature item in our Care Packages not only because they bring smiles to the faces of our deployed Troops, but also because we learned from service members fighting in Afghanistan that they are not just Beanie Babies… they help American forces build goodwill around the world.
This is abundantly clear in the words of a young Marine Lance Corporal who wrote us several years ago.
“I am one of the many Marines that you sent a Care Package. I want to thank each and every one of you for supporting us and for letting us know how much people support us back at home. I live with 17 Marines and Sailors in one room. Everyone got a package and everyone loved it, especially the cookies and beanie babies. The cookies are excellent and the beanie babies help us out a lot with the local kids. We give them candy and toys and they give us the location for IEDs. Once again, thank you for everything and for all the hard work that you put into the package.”
We didn’t just hear this from deployed troops in Afghanistan, we heard the same thing from Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors who built goodwill with children in Iraq, villages in Africa, and ports all over the world with the Beanie Babies our volunteers have donated.
The impact they have made cannot be expressed in words or measured simply by the countless smiles they generated. The fact is they are not just Beanie Babies, they have saved lives. To demonstrate this sobering reality, here is a story about another Marine deployed to Afghanistan which I shared on Fox & Friends a little over a year ago:
Our team and volunteers experienced that first-hand last year when we delivered our Care Packages in-person to every Sailor aboard the USS Monsoor. We had the opportunity to look in the eyes of service members who had deployed and say “thank you for your service.” But it is what happened next that built bridges and forged strong and lasting bonds. Our volunteers had conversations with the Sailors and asked questions about their service and the sacrifices they and their families endured during long deployments and frequent separations.
Then, as our volunteers were getting ready to take a tour of the ship, a Sailor approached with a Beanie Baby in his hand. He received it in an Operation Gratitude Care Package 14 years before while deployed for the very first time as a young Seaman aboard the USS Pearl Harbor. Chief France and the Beanie Baby he received from a grateful American in 2006 have traveled together on multiple deployments and to every single one of his duty stations.
He now keeps it in his rack aboard the USS Monsoor, demonstrating it is not just a Beanie Baby… it is a constant reminder to our servicemen and women that Americans everywhere appreciate their selfless service and sacrifice.
Now it’s your opportunity to remind Deployed Troops who will receive our Care Packages over the holidays that you support them. Over the next month we are asking every volunteer who has Beanie Babies to clean out your closets, basements, and attics; box them up; and send them to Operation Gratitude by the end of October so we can bring smiles just like these to the faces of Service Members around the world.
Thank you for your continued support of Operation Gratitude and our men and women in uniform who need that support more than ever.