Military Spouses on a Mission


Since I started as the CEO in December of 2017, Operation Gratitude has hired eight military spouses.

Each of them works tirelessly every day because they have lived and breathed the challenges our Care Package recipients face, and want to make a difference for the military, veteran and first responder communities at large.  In a rapidly changing environment, they approach every challenge and every “curveball” thrown at them with the can-do attitude, poise, and grace that epitomize our nation’s military spouses.  We are so lucky to have them on our team.

Krysten Angulo

Alejandro and I met in 2016 and are now happily married, living in the countryside of Virginia. We have a beautiful daughter, two energetic dogs, and two crazy (but adorable!) cats. Alejandro has been in the Air Force for almost ten years. Prior to when I met him, he was stationed across Europe for 6 years and deployed once to Kuwait. He got assigned to the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly in 2016, where we were lucky enough to be introduced by mutual friends.

I recently joined the Operation Gratitude team as a Development Coordinator and find myself constantly in awe of this organization. The dedication of every member of the team to the mission and the constant outpouring of support we receive from so many Americans is incredibly inspiring. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful mission!

Anne Bottema
Anne Bottema of Operation Gratitude standing next to her husband Anthony

Anthony and I met in 2007 while we served on active duty in the Marine Corps. I served for eight years as a weapons specialist and training advisor and now serve at home as a caregiver to Anthony, who is a disabled veteran, wounded during combat operations in the second battle of Ramadi, Iraq.

I am the Data Operations Manager at Operation Gratitude and hope to make meaningful and systemic changes in military and veteran populations within non-profit and government spaces. A recent graduate of Harvard University, Anthony plans to shape public policy in the defense space. We are currently living in Seattle, WA. You can hear more about Anthony’s service by following this link.

Maria Escuela
Maria Escuela of Operation Gratitude and her husband dressed in formal attire at a Marine Corp Ball

Dominic and I were married in New York City on April 23, 2010. We then moved from Brooklyn, NY to Orange County, California where Dominic was stationed at Camp Pendleton. In 2015, we welcomed our son into the world, and I have been a dedicated mother and homemaker ever since.

I recently had the privilege to join the Operation Gratitude team, and I can say firsthand that Dominic and I have personally experienced the blessings this organization provides. Dominic, an active duty Marine in his tenth year of service, and his team have received Operation Gratitude care packages on their deployments that made a positive impact on their morale.

The care packages reinforced the sense of honor and responsibility that their team made to serve their country and reminded them that people were willing to take time out of their day to show their appreciation. Dominic is currently enrolled in the Marine Corps’ enlisted commissioning education program, and he will be commissioned as a USMC Second Lieutenant at the end of the year. I am honored to be a part of Operation Gratitude and am eager to help support our nation’s Military and First Responders.

Betsy Eves
Betsy Eves of Operation Gratitude

David and I were married in July 2007.  We have lived in Washington state and Germany and are now settled in Virginia with our two kids, Emily (19) and Matty (7) and our corgi, “Donut”.  I am a caregiver to Dave who medically retired in 2016 after three deployments between 2007 and 2012 to Iraq and Afghanistan.

I am the Wounded Hero and Caregiver Program Director where I work to recognize the commitment and dedication of Military Wounded Heroes and Caregivers from all eras by thanking them for their service and sacrifice through the direct delivery of Operation Gratitude care packages. In my free time, I am very active in the military community, enjoy watching my son play baseball in Little League and spend as much time on the water in my kayak as possible.

Katie Haney
Katie Haney of Operation Gratitude standing in the sunshine next to her husband

If I could describe our life in one word, it would be “adventure.” I met my best friend and future husband in high school about a year before he left for boot camp at Camp Pendleton.

As a Marine, he went on to serve for more than seven years and multiple tours as a sniper in First Recon Battalion before transitioning from the Marine Corps to the Army where he has served on Active Duty and as a Reservist ever since, while also working as a Police Officer. We were married in February of 2011, and have three kids under the age of seven. Through the deployments to the Middle East, PCS moves, training cycles and long shifts at the Police Department, it’s no surprise that he is our kids’ (and my!) real-life hero.

When I started volunteering at Operation Gratitude in 2004, little did I know then that not only would I marry a man who would commit his life to serve our Country both overseas and here at home, but that I would also get to work for such an incredible organization that loves and appreciates the men and women who serve our country too.

Getting to come alongside the Military and First Responder communities to show support and gratitude for the work that they do day in and day out brings me so much joy. I am so thankful to be a part of this team!

Katie Piedra
Katie Piedra of Operation Gratitude standing on a Navy ship with her husband who is wearing his Navy uniform

Peter and I grew up roaming the same cities, attending the same schools and even living in the same cul-de-sac. I have always felt that there was a desire inside of Peter to be a part of something bigger than himself, so it was not a surprise when he enlisted in the Navy after high school back in 2008. Since then we have lived in places like Naples, Italy, started our family in Okinawa, Japan and visited many countries all over the world. More recently when Peter deployed, I was determined to find a way to give back to the military community.

On my 31st birthday, a group of friends and family and I volunteered at an Operation Gratitude Assembly Day where I not only participated in all the volunteer activities but was given Battalion Buddies for my children and even assembled a specific care package that was sent directly overseas to Peter in Romania.

I now coordinate the delivery of those same bears for other Military Families who face the same sacrifices and almost every Friday I have the honor of helping Americans across the Country, thank our newest Recruit Graduates for selflessly becoming a part of something much bigger than themselves. Operation Gratitude supported my family through our deployment, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to directly give back to the community that I love, live and advocate for every day.

Emily Pirman
Emily Pirman posing in a dress with her husband who is wearing a US Marine Corps uniform

Nate and I met in 2003 at the ages of 13 and 15. “Middle school sweethearts,” we were married in November 2017 and now live in Ashburn, V.A.

I am the Director of Corporate Volunteerism at Operation Gratitude and have been working in the corporate and non-profit event industry since 2010 with a focus on client relationship management and logistics management.

Nate served for 12 years in the Marine Corps Reserves as a Refrigeration Mechanic (8 years) and currently as a Civil Affairs Specialist (4 years).  He now works for Northrop Grumman as an Engineering Technician and is finishing his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. We enjoy spending our free time taking our puppy to the dog park, listening to music, decorating and re-decorating our home, exploring the local wineries and breweries, and spending time with friends and family.

Monica Shea
Monica Shea of Operation Gratitude and her husband dressed in formal attire for a Military Ball

On my 30th birthday, my husband asked me if I would support his dream of joining the military again. I had never imagined myself as a military spouse, but love makes you do crazy things, so I gladly agreed to this new adventure. Jon was a pharmacist in the civilian world working at a local hospital in New Hampshire, so it was a relatively smooth transition for him to become a Navy pharmacist in 2007.

Since then we have had the joy of making many friends who have become family and living in and visiting many beautiful and unusual places. In fact, my kids and I were visiting my husband in Bahrain at the very time our founder, Carolyn, touched down there en route to deliver the one millionth Operation Gratitude Care Package in the Gulf of Oman!

Another great gift military life has brought me is finding Operation Gratitude. I was out of the workforce for 12 years, caring for our three children and running our home so Jon could be free to complete his mission without worry. I was thrilled to find Operation Gratitude through a fellowship with Hiring our Heroes. Being back to work and utilizing my education and experience to honor other military families is the perfect place for a military spouse like me.

When I said yes to my husband’s dream on my birthday, I didn’t realize that I would still be receiving the gifts of military life all these years later, and I am truly grateful!

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Channeling the Holiday Spirit this Summer

Amidst the heat of the summer, an image of logs crackling in the fireplace and casting a glow on stockings hung above is probably the last thing to come to mind for most people. But for Operation Gratitude and our growing army of volunteers nationwide, the holiday spirit is always in our thoughts.

More Than Just a Hug

When I look back at my journey over the past 3 years and 8 months as the CEO of Operation Gratitude, the one thing that sticks out the most are the hugs.

They are etched in my memory forever — literally thousands of hugs at hundreds of service projects and community-building events — on too many trips, and in too many cities to count, from sea to shining sea.