Thanks to everyone who heard our call to action last week and quickly took action to write more letters. In just five days, more than 120 of you signed up to write letters personally or with a group in your community! With volunteers like you, I have no doubt we will reach our goal of 300,000 handwritten letters of appreciation to go in every Care Package we send the remainder of this year.
Every delivery will also include our signature paracord “survival” bracelets because we have learned over the past decade that it is not just a paracord bracelet… it is a symbol of appreciation and the strong bonds that Operation Gratitude forges between Americans and their military and first responder heroes.
However, these handmade gifts of appreciation and unity are much more than just symbols to the recipients. The impact the bracelets make is so profound; it can only truly be captured in the words of those who wear them. For so many deployed Troops, like this young Sailor who wrote to us after receiving a Holiday Care Package, it is not just a paracord bracelet… it is a constant reminder that their service is understood and their sacrifices do not go unnoticed.
“Dear Fellow Americans,
I recently received a care package from Operation Gratitude. In moments my energy was back, like a second wind-powered by a 5-Hour Energy shot. And it may sound silly, but the Beanie Baby brought an odd feeling of comfort to a grown man. Most importantly were the handwritten letters and paracord survival bracelet. On that day, I was beginning to lose hope. I now wear this bracelet as a constant reminder that no matter how hard the road ahead may be, there are people counting on me and I can’t give up on them. You saved my life.”
-The Lone Sailor
I’ve seen the same thing in emails and more recently in person when I’ve met veterans who proudly wear our paracord bracelets. One of the most meaningful things I’ve experienced as the CEO of Operation Gratitude was looking in the eyes of a Vietnam Veteran and saying “thank you for your service” on behalf of grateful Americans like you.
I will never forget the moment when I put a paracord bracelet on the wrist of this Navy Vietnam Veteran pictured here:
Look at the expression on his face as I shared that the bracelet was handcrafted in Vietnam Campaign ribbon colors by a volunteer, especially for him. Looking at his face and reading the words below from another recipient, you can clearly see that it is not just a paracord bracelet… it is a defining moment that changes someone’s life forever, and it means the world to them.
“First off let me thank you so much for the bracelet. The story of its use is not one of valor but one of a dad and his daughter. As a former Soldier and current Deputy Sheriff, I have seen many of your bracelets handed out and worn over the years but never used mine until 21 May 2019. On this day my wife and I carried our five-year-old little girl, Grace, to the hospital for her third heart surgery. Upon arriving at the parking garage down the road from the hospital and unloading the vehicle I found I had nothing to secure all the luggage to the handcart that needed to go inside. Suddenly I remembered the rope bracelet that I placed in the glove box and used it. I am happier to say that I reused it for the same purpose the day we brought Grace home after a successful operation. To many, this may not seem big, but to a dad and his daughter it meant the world.”
Fittingly, when our Senior Director of Volunteer and Community Engagement and daughter of an Air Force Veteran, Stacey Danylan, heard this story, she asked the Veteran for his, his wife’s, and his daughter’s favorite colors and their wrist sizes. Then Stacey made these beautiful custom fit paracord bracelets to lift their spirits and let them know we will always be here for them.
Paracord bracelets are not only full of meaning — the “quick release” design also makes them useful for our deployed service members. From a young Soldier in Afghanistan who used his bracelet as a temporary sling for his M4 rifle to the three Marines who strapped fuel cans back to the side of their 7-ton truck in order to keep up with their convoy in the deserts of Iraq, our bracelets have been utilized in numerous different emergency situations.
My favorite story came from our first-ever Vice President of Operations who used the paracord bracelet he received to extract himself and his Marines from a firefight in Afghanistan. By tying a “glow stick” to the end of the 7.5-foot paracord and lassoing it around his head, the Marine pilot could spot them in low visibility terrain and rescue them from enemy fire in a CH-46 helicopter.
Last year we received this note from a chaplain deployed in Iraq. He was addressing the winners of the Red, White, and Blue Paracord Challenge, but his words apply to each of us. He eloquently makes the point that it is not just a paracord bracelet…it’s a single act of service and kindness that makes a global impact.
“I am the Chaplain responsible for all Special Forces from every Branch of the Military. We have Soldiers, Airmen, Navy, and Marines, in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, and Kuwait. We are called SOJTF-OIR (Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve) and you can actually follow some of our missions on Facebook.
As of this moment, your bracelets (including the one I keep on me) are represented in each of these countries. They are being worn by some of the most Elite Operators in the world. You should also know that beyond our American Forces they are being worn by our allies – Special Operations Service Members from Australia, Great Britain, Canada, and France.
Did you know you would have such a global impact? How could you, right? This is why I wanted to send you this short email, to remind you that no one truly knows the impact of a single act of service, a single act of kindness. I encourage you to press on with the same spirit that led each of you to start on this path in the first place.”
-Chaplain W.S., Command Chaplain, Baghdad, Iraq
After reading this, I hope you realize that the impact we make on individuals and globally starts with one person and a simple act of kindness and gratitude. Impact starts with one letter. It starts with one paracord bracelet. It starts with you. And we need your help to make an impact more than ever.
To learn more about how you can change one life or impact thousands of lives by handcrafting paracord survival bracelets or heartfelt handwritten letters, visit our virtual volunteerism page.