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See It With Your Own Eyes

A grateful nation that serves together is united. 

I know it’s difficult to envision — Americans of all ages, in and out of uniform, from every walk of life, standing side by side in service to their country, their communities, and one another. 

I understand. You may not believe it unless you see it with your own eyes. Let me help you picture it and imagine what it will be like, not only to see it but also to be a part of it in your own community. 

Last week I saw it firsthand when I joined our dedicated team and volunteers. Over five days in four cities — from Orlando to Atlanta and Augusta to Fort Stewart, we were all part of it. We helped bridge the civilian-service divide. Operation Gratitude showed time and again that it is possible to create understanding, empathy, and meaningful connections between those who serve and the citizens they protect.

In each and every community we profoundly impacted hundreds of service members, veterans, first responders, and their families — more than 4,000 in total. From a 98-year-old WWII Veteran named Max to a 9-month-old military child whose father is deployed, we demonstrated that the best way to say thank you and build bridges with those who serve our nation and our neighborhoods is through our actions. 

You can see it with your own eyes in these photos — civilian, military, veteran, and first responder families serving together, appreciating one another, and making their communities stronger — a grateful nation, united. 

May 3, 2021 — Visiting dedicated Operation Gratitude volunteer and 98-year-old WWII veteran, Max, and his daughter and caregiver, Kathy, in Orlando, Florida. Max has written hundreds of letters paying it forward to deployed troops around the world. He has also inspired hundreds of local civilians to help him assemble and deliver “Hello Luv” hygiene kits to homeless veterans in memory of Julie, his wife of 75 years, who passed away last year. 
May 4, 2021 — International Firefighters’ Day. Team OG and 50 volunteers assembled 1,100 care packages for firefighters, EMTs, and 911 dispatchers serving the City of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department in partnership with Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation and Team Red, White & Blue in Atlanta. 
May 5, 2021 — Harlem, GA Fire Station #2. At an Assembly Day led by OG Ambassador, Jared Clemens, civilians, first responders, and military families came together in service to say thank you to 2,200 police officers, firefighters, and EMTs in ten police and fire departments and 500 military families at Fort Gordon.
May 7, 2021 — Military Spouse Appreciation Day. In partnership with CSX and L’Oreal, Operation Gratitude expressed the gratitude of the American people to hundreds of military spouses and children of deployed troops in Fort Stewart, Georgia who spent Mother’s Day without their husbands and fathers.

You can see it with your own eyes not only in the photos above, but also in the words of a police officer’s spouse who reached out to say thank you for giving her husband and his fellow officers the opportunity to volunteer alongside civilians, Airmen, and military families from Fort Gordon, and for lifting their spirits with our care packages during a very challenging time.

“You don’t know me but my husband was a recipient of an Operation Gratitude Care Package yesterday. He is a retired USAF veteran and has been a Columbia County Sheriff’s Deputy for 20 years. I just wanted to thank all those who participated in doing that for him. He and his fellow deputies, one of whom is a veteran too, were just so overwhelmed and thankful. It isn’t often they get thanked for what they do, nor do people see all the good things police officers and deputies do on a day-to-day basis. Please pass on his, his deputies, and my gratitude for the wonderful thing that you and all of the volunteers did. Thank you for making a difference.”

Terri 

I hope you can better envision the true potential of Operation Gratitude now. In the coming months when states across the country open back up, unrestricted by COVID, we will be coming to a city near you. When we do, I hope you will come see it with your own eyes and be a part of it, too — a nation united through service and gratitude.

In the meantime, you can help us continue to make a difference for our men and women in uniform serving around the world and here at home during Military Appreciation Month. Here is an opportunity for YOU to make an impact today! Write a digital letter using this online platform created by Veterans United Home Loans. We will print it off and deliver it to National Guardsmen currently deployed to vaccination sites around the country!

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RECENT ENTRIES

Flag Day and Measuring Impact

I know the civilian-military divide may be unthinkable to some, but it is real. And while I’ve heard from a few volunteers that they were upset to learn an overwhelming majority of our troops and their families feel misunderstood, we must ask “what more can we DO about it?”

As we approach 9/11’s 20th anniversary, Operation Gratitude is redoubling our efforts to address this issue and taking steps to measure the impact of what we are DOING to solve it.

Catch Our Breath

While it’s important to occasionally take pause and appreciate what’s been accomplished, the opportunity to catch our breath could only be but a brief one. We choose to press on because our men and women in uniform can’t catch their breath either.