In a successful secret mission, Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek, accompanied by Board Members Marty Martin and Sue Pollard, both “Navy Moms,” traveled last week from Los Angeles to Istanbul to Bahrain to connect with the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman to deliver the One Millionth Care Package to a Sailor deployed on the cruiser USS Gettysburg in the Gulf of Oman.
That Sailor was Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW) Brooke Oekerman, and as part of the surprise, Blashek handed Oekerman the symbolic keys to a 2014 Ford F-150 pickup truck donated by 5-Hour Energy®. Oekerman will receive the truck along with a Home Entertainment System donated by Best Buy and a poster signed by Tiger Woods, when she returns from her deployment in 2014.
“This was truly unexpected! I’m honored to be the one-millionth person to receive a care package from Operation Gratitude,” said Oekerman. “I know so many Sailors are deserving of this honor and these amazing gifts. It’s a pretty selfless act on [Operation Gratitude’s] part to send care packages to people they don’t even know and ask for nothing in return.”
Blashek, Martin, and Pollard distributed 360 Care Packages and gave hugs to every sailor on board USS Getttysburg before helicoptering back to USS Truman to deliver the One Millionth and One package to a sailor on board the carrier, OSSA Kody Oldham.
“I was speechless and overwhelmed at how generous people can be,” said Oldham as he studied all the items included in the Best Buy Home Entertainment System that he also received. “Being on deployment makes it easy to forget how much people care about us back home. It’s truly incredible how far people will go to show their support,” said Oldham. (See photos of the Millionth and One Package Presentation here.)
NBC Nightly News and The TODAY Show covered the story as reported by Pentagon Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski as one of their ongoing “Making a Difference” segments: Care Packages Brighten Sailors’ Spirits
“We are deeply honored for this opportunity to personally deliver all these packages on board two magnificent U.S. Navy ships,” said Blashek. “While Brooke and Kody are both very deserving of the special gifts, we give the two milestone packages to them as representatives of all the outstanding service members in the U.S. Military—the greatest force for good in the world.”
Marty Martin was moved by the response from the Sailors. “The Gettysburg family was thrilled for their comrade Brooke and cheered wildly as she read the letter informing that she would receive the F-150 upon her return home,” she said.
While on USS Gettysburg, Sue Pollard handed a third special package to Chief Gunner’s Mate (SW) Jack Daniels, whose youngest child is named Charlie. The package contained t-shirts, hats and other fun items from the Tennessee whiskey distiller Jack Daniels plus a bobble-head doll and signed photographs from the legendary country and southern rock musician, Charlie Daniels. In presenting the package, Pollard, a Gold Star Mom, related that Gold Star Mothers enjoy a drink or two of Jack Daniels when they get together. The distiller Jack Daniels and the musician, Charlie Daniels, have been generous supporters of Operation Gratitude.
Harry S. Truman, flagship for the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, and Gettysburg are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, supporting theater security cooperation efforts and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
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