Operation Gratitude’s Military Support Programs

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Did you know that Operation Gratitude volunteers send more than 150,000 care packages every year?

Our mission is to lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of our Active Duty and Veteran communities.  To do so, we have developed these unique care package programs, each with the goal of saying “Thank You” to our heroes:

NMCB 26Deployed Troop Care Packages: Our volunteers assemble and ship our hallmark Operation Gratitude Care Packages to deployed Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, each package personally addressed by name.

Recruit Care Packages: Our “Recruit” Care Package program thanks our newest members of the Military for stepping forward and devoting the next several years of their life in service to our nation.

Battalion Buddy Packages: We send cuddly stuffed animal “Battalion Buddy” packages to the children of deploying service members. Each Battalion Buddy wears a tag saying: “Hi Brave Young Warrior! I am your Battalion Buddy. I am here to cuddle with you while your Mommy or Daddy is away.”
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Veterans Care Packages: We coordinate with VA Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Veterans’ Groups & Homeless Veterans Support Organizations to provide care packages for Veterans of all generations to let them know they are never forgotten and because “It is never too late to say, ‘Thank You.’”

Wounded Warrior Packages: Our “Purple Heart” Care Packages provide comfort items to troops recovering in Military Hospitals and Wounded Warrior Transition Units.

Care Packages for Care Givers: In recognition of their sacrifice and devotion, Operation Gratitude sends special greetings and appreciation to wives, mothers and sisters (or male relatives) who are caring for their wounded warriors.

First Responder Care Kits: Essential supplies are collected, assembled into easily transportable kits, and provided to emergency response teams deploying into crisis situations.

Military Family Care Packages: Disaster Relief Supplies and basic necessities, including food, toiletries, household products, blankets and clothing are given to Military families and Veterans facing financial hardships and homelessness due to catastrophe, unemployment, PTSD, illness or injury. 

To learn how you can support any or all of these programs, check out this blog post or email OpGrat@gmail.com

To request packages for Deployed Troops, visit our website or email OpGrat@aol.com

NewBatBud2To request Veteran, Recruit, First Responder or Military Family packages, email OpGratVet@gmail.com

To request Battalion Buddies for a deploying unit, email BattalionBuddy@gmail.com

To request Wounded Warrior or Care Giver packages, email OpGratWW@gmail.com

For Corporate donations or employee volunteer opportunities, please contact Dana@OperationGratitude.com

Make a financial donation today — Every $15 pays our shipping and assembly costs to send another care package: Donate Online Here

Thank you for your generous support!

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Are We Still Relevant?

A Message from Operation Gratitude Founder, Carolyn Blashek:

Dear Friends,

I am often asked: “Now that the wars are over and all the troops are coming home, are you going to shut down Operation Gratitude?” 

The answer to that question is a very resounding “NO!”

In addition, the premise of the question is wrong: We still have tens of thousands of men 1149076Band women serving in combat zones. In fact, just last week, 11 Americans were killed in Afghanistan; several more severely wounded.

Further, even if U.S. troops are not in a defined combat zone, they are putting themselves in harm’s way when they swear an oath to defend the nation, don their uniform, train at home or in foreign countries, or advise the military of other nations.  All are deserving of our thanks.

So…the answer to the question “Are we still relevant?” is: “Absolutely YES!”

The letters, emails and comments we receive daily from the Military and their families, prove to us that our work is vital, meaningful and must continue:

I would like to say thank you very much for what you all do. It is Christmas morning over here in Kuwait, and your box is the only present I got to open today. Let me tell you, I was all smiles the whole time, and I teared up a couple times with what those wonderful, beautiful kids wrote. It is hard being away from my wife and two daughters but your words and gifts and support make it a little easier. Please keep doing what you’re doing. It means the world to all of us over here on this side of the world! And the individual label made it really heartfelt, and special! P.F.C. A.M.

carepkgs2With fewer troops in active combat zones, we can now expand our efforts to say “Thank You” to more and more of those who serve and have served our nation, including:

1.  Tens of thousands of active duty personnel continue to be separated from home and loved ones on “hardship tours,” deployments at sea or training exercises. They still need to know we care. We will continue to send our personally addressed Deployed Troop packages to them wherever they are.

2.  Every year, more than 100,000 brave young Americans step forward to protect and defend our nation by joining the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines. They endure the rigors of “Boot Camp” and their first experience away from home, in order to serve America for the next four or more years of their lives.

These young troopers need to know right out of the gate that we recognize and honor the 1153327Bcommitment they have made to us, so we have started a “Recruit Care Package” Program to say “Thank You” with packages to Recruits upon graduation from Boot Camp!

3.  And we will never forget the 23 Million Veterans from all generations, and the 750,000 physically and emotionally injured Wounded Warriors from the past twelve years. Under our banner of “It is never too late to say “Thank You,” we will provide care packages to as many of these heroes as we can reach. Veterans such as Sgt. P, C Company, 2d Airborne BN:

I was Honorably Discharged from the US ARMY, in 1969. My Combat service was in Vietnam & Cambodia, as a “Light-weapons Infantryman” during 1968 & part of ’69. When I came home, wounded in action and alone because my entire squad had been killed-in-action during the war, I was shouted at, and called bad names by the American people at the airport. The FIRST time that I have ever felt “Welcome home” was yesterday, at one of your sponsored events when I received an Operation Gratitude package. Thank you from the bottom of my Heart. You REALLY “Made my Day” yesterday. 

handsAs we look to the future, our work is cut out for us, and it is work we cannot do alone. We need your support and hands-on volunteer efforts TODAY!

Individuals, small businesses, service groups and corporations throughout the country can participate in a myriad of ways.

From organizing local Care Kit Assemblies, to making Survival Bracelets, to handing out care packages and more, VOLUNTEERISM is the key to our success in supporting our Military community.

Will you join us as we March to our Second Million Care Packages?

To learn how you can help, please visit these links: 

Corporate and Business Support  
Employee Volunteerism
Individuals, Scouts, Schools, Groups
Donate Now

We look forward to working with you in 2014 and beyond to continue our mission of saying “Thank You” to our courageous Military! 

Love,
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Scarves for Troops Program

Our Scarves for Troops Program is more popular than ever thanks to the dedicated and generous support from talented people like YOU all across the country! These made-with-love gifts are treasured by all who receive them!

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If you have knitting or crocheting skills, we invite you to join us — starting now — so we can include one of these precious gifts in each of the winter-time care packages we send!

Want to get started? Here are a few Frequently Asked Questions…and Answers!

  • Is there a pattern for the scarves and hats? There is no specific pattern to follow so feel free to use your own — or you can find some here: PATTERNSWe do recommend that you keep them simple and perhaps use slightly larger needles so more can be made! Please keep your scarves within our size restrictions (5-6″ across and about 48″ long) so they fit into our care packages. No fringe. You may notice that the size guidelines are a bit smaller than in the past. Do NOT be concerned if yours are a little wider or longer. It is still absolutely fine. Our scarves that are a bit too large for our regular boxes are enjoyed and appreciated by our Wounded Warriors or our Veterans.
  • What yarns and colors should we use? Any soft yarn is fine and any color will be accepted, but if possible please keep the colors on the subtle side–blues, browns, olives, 005grays, maroon, and black are all good choices, as well as appropriate for male and female troops! Stripes using these colors or multi-colored yarn is acceptable. It is best to steer away from red, white and blue as a color combination. Military personnel cannot wear a depiction of the flag. Scarves can be red and white or blue and red or blue and white, but it’s best not to use the three colors together.

Please note: The scarves and hats we send are gifts from home. This message is from Carolyn Blashek, Founder of Operation Gratitude:

“The importance of the scarves in our packages is to send the very warm and loving message that people at home care enough to take the time and effort to make something as beautiful as a scarf. Our scarves, hats, etc. are not ‘regulation,’ so they can only be worn by the troops during their moments of rest and when they go home. Nevertheless, the message they send is enduring. Due to potential allergies and/or Military uniform restrictions, please list the fiber content on your ‘Made With Love’ note that you attach to the scarf.”

  • Should I attach a letter or note? We make sure that all hand-made items HandmadewithLoveinclude a short note and an e-mail address. If you could do so for each of your hats and scarves (include the fiber content information, too) it would be most helpful — and makes it even more special when the item is personalized. The note can be as simple as “Hand-made with love” OR a note or letter telling about yourself, including your email address or your home address. (If you are uncomfortable using your personal address, feel free to use ours – opgrat@gmail.com – but please also include your full name so we can be sure to forward the message on to you!)
  • Will I get a letter of acknowledgment from Operation Gratitude? Yes, we will keep track of all the scarves and hats you send or deliver to the armory, then send you a thank you letter within 12 weeks. If you want confirmation of delivery of your shipment(s), please use the tracking system provided by your shipper.
  • Where should I send my donations? Please send them to the address below, and please remember to include your name and full address, along with a completed Donation Form in each box you send:

    Operation Gratitude/CA National Guard
    17330 Victory Boulevard
    Van Nuys, CA 91406
    ATTN: Scarves for Troops Program

    Find helpful shipping tips, cost-saving ideas and important information at our blog:  Donation & Shipping InfoIf you want confirmation of delivery on your shipments of item donations prior to receipt of our acknowledgment letter (allow up to 12 weeks), please use the tracking system provided by your shipper. 

  • When do you accept donations of hand-made items? We can accept them year-round. Here is a flyer you can print and share with others: Made With Love

More questions? Please send us an email: Opgratscarves@gmail.com – we’ll reply asap!

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind…

Tied-on Note1. The best way to attach your personal notes to your scarves is with a piece of yarn through a hole in the note and then tied to the scarf (shown, left). Include your contact information — an email or “snail mail” address — so the recipient can send you a “thank you” if they have time! 

2. Many of you are thoughtful to place each scarf in an individual plastic zip-lock bag. That is not necessary. Instead, when mailing to the Armory, please place scarves all together in one large plastic zip-lock or draw-string bag so the scarves remain clean and dry during transit to us and while waiting to be shipped to the troops. 

3. For more information about the Hand-Made Items program, patterns for Scarves, Hats, Paracord “Survival” Bracelets and Bandana Cool-Ties to knit, crochet and sew, check out: Handmade With Love — More Ways to Show You Care and Scarf, Hat, & Cool-Tie Project Details.

4. Be sure to visit our Pinterest board for more inspiration and ideas.

Our hope is that you all will be inspired to keep your hands and needles busy making these gifts all year round! Our goal is to send 50,000 every year!! We definitely need your help.

Thank you again for all your generous support! “Busy Hands, Happy Heart!”

QUESTIONS? Send them to Kelly: Opgratscarves@gmail.com     

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Help Make More Smiles — No Matter Where You Live

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Every week, we hear from enthusiastic people all across the country who, like you, want to join us to support the Military Community and Operation Gratitude’s patriotic cause. But, because they live far from our Los Angeles-area location, they think they can’t. Not true!

There are many, many ways YOU can volunteer right from your own home and community! Keep reading and see what will work for you!

JB2Need some ideas to get started?
Ten Easy Ways to Support the Troops
The March to a Million: A Remarkable Journey

Collection Drive Info:
Beanie Babies for the Troops?

How to Organize a Collection Drive
Wondering What’s on Our “Wish List”?
Recycle Cell Phones

Letter Writing & Hand-Made Item Info:
“Handmade With Love” –  Show You Care!
Letters:
Take Time to say “Thank You for Serving!”
WANTED:  Paracord “Survival” Bracelets

Corporate and Business Support:
Care Kit Assembly at Your Site
Employee Volunteerism

Let’s Get Physical!
Yuengling Light Lager Jogger 5K
Down & Dirty Mud Runs

Creative Giving:

NEW– Hand-deliver care packages: Send an email to opgrat@gmail.com for more information and details.

GM2 SCAnd don’t forget: Our website is updated frequently — check our Special Events page often to stay up-to-date!

IMPORTANT: Need to ship donations to us? Please visit our Donation & Shipping Info page and don’t forget to fill out and include a Donor Form in whatever packages you send us:

Operation Gratitude/CA Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406-5438
Attn: Donations  (800) 651-8031

Please use the tracking system provided by your shipper if you want confirmation of delivery on your shipments of donations prior to receipt of our acknowledgment letter (allow up to 12 weeks).Veterans Care Packages

Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest, watch our inspirational YouTube channel videos, join our Email List, make an online financial donation and — most importantly — please tell your family and friends about us and encourage their support too!

Have your own ideas? Contact us at opgrat@gmail.com and let’s brainstorm!

We cannot continue our efforts without YOUR help! Thank you!

Patrol Squadron Four Six

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Look What You Did

You made 2013 a great year!

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With your support, in the past 12 months we assembled and shipped:

59,972   Deployed Troops Care Packages

50,597   Veterans Care Packages

22,437   Battalion Buddy Packages

14,646   Halloween Candy Care Packages

  2.430   Disaster Relief Supplies Packages

  1,251   Military Family Care Packages

  1,003   Wounded Warrior Care Packages

    691    Care Giver Care Packages

    486    First Responder Care Packages

153,513  Total Care Packages sent in 2013!  THANK YOU!!

And…requests for our care packages continue to pour in. We need your help.

As the New Year approaches, please consider a tax-deductible financial donation today, and get us started on fulfilling these package requests now.

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Every donation of $15 sends another care package.

With your continued generosity, we will expand our efforts to meet the evolving needs of the military community.

Please click on this link to DONATE NOW.  Together we can ensure that all service members, past and present, hear the words: “Thank you for your service.”

To donate by mail, send a check made payable and addressed to:

Operation Gratitude
P.O. Box 260257
Encino, CA 91426-0257

1535700_10201871485286968_1466090160_nKeep up with all the latest Operation Gratitude news in 2014 by following us on your favorite social media and networking sites — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube!

Over the past 10 years, you have helped us boost the morale of more than One Million deployed Service Members, Veterans, Military Children and Wounded Warriors. The “Miles of Smiles” remind us why we do what we do!

THANK YOU for your generous support!

Best wishes for a very Happy, Healthy & Peaceful 2014 from all of us at Operation Gratitude!

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Miles of Smiles from the Troops

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Smiles and emails like these remind us why we do what we do…

Dear Operation Gratitude: Today I received a care package from your organization. It reminded me that even though my life out here is hectic, my days are crazy busy and my periods of rest always seem to be too short, there are those out there who are appreciative of all that we do and endure and it encouraged me to continue to press on for those people. Thank you for what you do.

So many service members deploy and don’t have someone back home to encourage them or motivate them and it’s wonderful that your organization has people who do so much for guys like that.

Thank you for what you have done, are doing and continue to do for us out here. With much love and appreciation, you all make what we do feel that much easier to do and endure.

Thank you so much! GySgt J.K.D.

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We received this email on Christmas Day: 

Operation Gratitude: I would like to say thank you very much for what you all do. It’s Christmas morning over here in Kuwait, and your box is the only present I got to open today and let me tell you — I was all smiles the whole time, teared up a couple times with what those wonderful, beautiful kids wrote.

It’s hard being away from my wife and two daughters but your words and gifts and support make it a little easier.

I got so excited over the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ DVD and ‘Peanut’ the little blue elephant Teenie Beanie Baby! And I LOVE the hand-knit scarf, very touching. Along with the running socks and all the rest of the goodies!

Please keep doing what you’re doing. It means the world to all of us over here on this side of the world! And the individual label made it really heartfelt and special!

God bless and Merry Christmas! PFC A.M.

The New Year will be here soon — and we already have requests for thousands of Deployed Troop, Veterans and Battalion Buddy Care Packages to ship in January.

Please ensure we can fulfill these requests! Send your tax-deductible donation today: Donate Now

To donate by mail, please make a check payable to Operation Gratitude and send it to:

Operation Gratitude
P.O. Box 260257
Encino, CA 91426-0257

Thank you for your generous support! Over the past 10 years, you have helped us boost the morale of more than a million deployed Service Members, Veterans, Military Children and Wounded Warriors.

Every donation of $15 pays to assemble and ship another care package. 

Happy New Year and THANK YOU from all of us at Operation Gratitude!

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Mission Accomplished: One Millionth Care Package Delivered!

CarePkgIn 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 Brookedonated 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 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 SueMate (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.

See all our great photos:
One Millionth Care Package Delivery
The Millionth and One Package Presentation
Celebrating One Million Packages

To order a commemorative keepsake chronicling the March to the First Million packages, click here: The Gratitude Journal

None of this would be possible without YOUR generous support! To help start us on our March to the Second Million, please click here: Donate Today

THANK YOU!

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