Stay the Course

Challenging weeks happen from time to time when you are part of a nonprofit and work tirelessly to make a difference. But in those difficult moments, it always seems something inevitably happens that reminds us why serving others is so incredibly important and that we must stay the course

For me, one of those moments happened early the other morning. I was up before dawn to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. I went there to pay my respects and offer my deepest gratitude to a forgotten generation of veterans. I also went there to represent our volunteers and to honor your service with Operation Gratitude. 

The week marked the end of our Vietnam Veterans Paracord Bracelet Challenge and the beginning of yet another opportunity to make a profound impact on the lives of thousands — if not tens of thousands — of Vietnam Veterans when we deliver the beautiful bracelets that our volunteers took the time to create by hand. As I said in this video at the memorial, you are helping us say “thank you for your service” to so many of these heroes who are hearing those words for the very first time. 

Representing our OG team and one million volunteers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in March 2021.

I had the privilege of joining our “Gratitude in Action” Facebook group to thank them for their efforts in the paracord challenge and other crafty endeavors they have undertaken for Operation Gratitude. Penny Stewart asked me to share something in this Weekly Briefing that will stick with me forever, and I hope you will remember it, too, as you continue your service with OG.  

Penny wanted me to tell you how special this close-knit virtual community is. Like all of us, she wants to say “thank you” to our men and women in uniform, but the primary reason she serves with Operation Gratitude is because she loves being part of a passionate and dedicated community of knitters, crocheters, and crafters who support one another.  

The thing is: there are many reasons why our growing army of volunteers give back with us — from expressing gratitude to all who serve, to being part of a community of amazing people with “servants’ hearts,” to wanting our military, veterans, first responders, and their families to feel appreciated, understood, and connected to the community, and the list goes on….  

Whatever your reasons are, it is important to recognize that our organization is much bigger than any one person, and we have a responsibility to bring the goodness of Operation Gratitude to millions more Americans nationwide so they can find their sense of purpose, too! To put it simply, our organization will grow if we provide multiple reasons for volunteers to join our movement. And when we grow, OG will make an even greater impact for those who serve our nation with honor, courage, and commitment. 

This was wholly apparent in March when we celebrated our “coming of age.” On the heels of impacting 18,000 deployed troops on our 18th anniversary and 4,500 National Guardsmen deployed to vaccination sites and food banks in California, thousands of frontline responders in Dallas, and then 214 children of deployed troops in Camp Lejeune, NC. Operation Gratitude and our volunteers also impacted 1,000 NYPD police officers in Staten Island with an “unequivocal act of human kindness.”

In March, volunteers led by OG Ambassador, Dr. O, assembled care packages for thousands of frontline responders in Dallas, Texas.
Military families at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina received Battalion Buddies and care packages with the help of retired Marine Colonel and Military Advisory Council Member, Rich Anderson.
Our COO Paul Cucinotta and OG volunteers delivered 1,000 care packages to NYPD police officers in Staten Island, New York.

Our team is blessed — we get to see the difference we make every day in face-to-face interactions and in countless emails from our volunteers and recipients who are inspired to go a step beyond both saying and receiving a “thank you.” The truth is, all of them give us an infinite number of reasons to stay the course

This spring, I’m reminded of new beginnings and second chances. We have a chance to say “thank you” to those Vietnam Veterans who haven’t heard it enough, if ever at all. Today, we have a chance to put a difficult week in perspective by serving others and experiencing the joy, connectedness, and sense of community that comes with it. Today, we have a chance to get excited about the hundreds of thousands of lives we will positively impact in the coming months.

As we put the challenges of the past year behind us, we will have an opportunity to bring our volunteers and recipients together again. I’m asking you to stay the course with us, so when that happens, we can make an even greater impact — saying “thank you” to those who serve and helping them forge strong bonds with their civilian neighbors through service, acts of gratitude, and meaningful engagements in communities nationwide.

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Building Bridges with Our Nation’s Heroes

Our team is asking you to stay the course with us and go a step beyond saying “thank you for your service.”

We’re asking you to help us build bridges between civilians and our men and women in uniform and their families in communities nationwide.

Support, See, and Stand with Them

As you read these words, there are moms and dads saying goodbye to their kids at airports just like I did on January 25, 2008 when my oldest son Luke turned 13. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was on my way to Israel where I would spend the better part of my final year as a United States Marine. My youngest son, Jack, who was then 7, cried inconsolably, clutching the back of my neck and refusing to let go.