A couple of weeks ago I shared a story about a young Airman named Jared Clemens. As an Operation Gratitude Ambassador, Jared demonstrated how veterans and military families can build bridges in communities where we aim to close divides between civilians and first responders.
The fact is: we have inspired thousands of service members and veterans who have received our care packages to serve again and pay it forward. As an organization, we made great strides last week and inspired thousands more veterans across the country to volunteer with Operation Gratitude.
In partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Operation Gratitude was featured in the VA’s weekly newsletter called VetResources. In this blog, which was seen by 12 million veterans and their families nationwide, we not only gave the VA’s civilian volunteers opportunities to serve our nation’s veterans, but we called on our nation’s veterans to continue their service and join our Virtual Volunteerism movement.
As we continue to fight a global pandemic, our hope is that many new veterans, service members, and their families will participate in and lead OG service projects. They will play a vital role in helping us achieve our mission, and in the process, unite our country and our individual communities.
Pay It Forward
One such example is Sara Field, an Air Force spouse who, like Jared, embraced Operation Gratitude’s mission and brought together communities in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Illinois through a common bond of service and simple acts of gratitude. Sara’s service with Operation Gratitude began as a recipient when she helped arrange a delivery of 60 Battalion Buddies to military children in her husband’s squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. I will never forget that day I joined Sara and Lieutenant Colonel Damon Field for a special ceremony acknowledging the sacrifices, strength, and resilience of military kids in recognition of the Month of the Military Child.
Sara took the next step like so many of our recipients and became a volunteer at our Assembly Day in Philadelphia, bringing dozens of Airmen and military families with her to pay it forward. She then went on to further that service by organizing a delivery of Battalion Buddies to new military children in her squadron during the pandemic and wrote a blog about our military families program which perfectly captures the essence of what we do as an organization.
And here is where Sara’s service with Operation Gratitude shows the true potential of veterans and military families helping us bridge divides between civilians and first responders in communities nationwide: Sara joined our Ambassador corps last fall and single-handedly coordinated a community-wide appreciation luncheon that impacted 100 police officers, firefighters, and EMTs.
Bringing together Chambers of Commerce, the local VFW post, dozens of businesses, and civilian and military families serving side by side, she built bridges with first responders in two small towns near her husband’s new duty station in Illinois on National First Responder Appreciation Day. The very next week she organized a similar service project in her driveway where the civilian-military community came together yet again to assemble care packages for doctors and nurses at their local hospital.
Be an Ambassador in Texas
Over the next few weeks, you too have a chance to do exactly what Sara and Jared did as OG Ambassadors. In response to a state of emergency in Texas, we are going to lift the spirits of up to 5,000 first responders in Austin, Georgetown, and Killeen. Under the leadership of our VP of Marketing and Communications, Army Spouse Danielle Tenconi, military families stationed at Fort Hood will serve side by side with their civilian neighbors to assemble and deliver our care packages and a much-needed morale boost to first responders working around the clock.
With the help of our volunteers, we will strive to do the same thing to recognize frontline responders in other parts of Texas and other states ravaged by snow and ice storms, frigid temperatures, and COVID-19.
I am asking you to consider helping us in two ways:
If you would like to help specifically in Texas, please contact Danielle directly at email@example.com.
While many organizations are hosting panel discussions focused on the challenges military families and veterans face, we are celebrating their courage and strength and calling on them to serve again. We don’t spend a lot of time debating ways to bridge the civilian-service divide — instead, we bring communities together with our actions. What’s more, these actions at the grassroots level are being led by veterans and military spouses who are forging bonds between civilians and frontline responders in the neighborhoods where families (in and out of uniform) live, work, and raise their children.
Thank you for being a part of our movement. You are making a difference by demonstrating every day that actions speak louder than words.