A Volunteer Speaks…and Joins ROTC

Hi all – my name is Chelsea, and I have been a supervisor of Operation Gratitude for about a year and a half. I recently graduated from high school; I started with Operation Gratitude a mere 2 years ago as an eager volunteer. At the time, my dream of going into the military was just beginning – with a very rocky start. Being an only child, and a girl at that, my parents, friends, and family found my military dream hard to swallow.  Struggling to find support, I was somehow lucky enough to stumble into the armory on an assembly day. I was instantly hooked, as most people are, and was surprised to find just how fast I became a part of the group.

This fall, I will be moving to Nashville, Tennessee to attend Vanderbilt University on an Army ROTC scholarship. Had I not found Operation Gratitude 2 years ago, I may not have continued pursuing my dream. As a 16 year old girl, I was certainly lacking in the skills department – I couldn’t come to the armory on weekdays like all the others, and I didn’t have any skills that allowed me to add to the group of wonderful supervisors already instated. Yet still, when I came into contact with Carolyn and told her all about what my dreams were, she didn’t hesitate to allow me the honor of wearing a blue (Supervisor) shirt. That’s just the way it goes with Operation Gratitude; the community is truly the embodiment of selflessness and compassion. Regardless of your age, gender, political background, religion, etc., everyone has an equal opportunity to help out and to feel the warm satisfaction of doing something good for someone else.

The goal of Operation Gratitude from the start has been to send care packages to our troops overseas, but it has become so much more than that. My goal is to make it known that the troops are not the only ones benefiting from this organization; the volunteers and supporters receive just as much if not more from it. Every volunteer has a story of how Operation Gratitude has changed their life for the better, myself included. Having military aspirations in a town like LA has been, well, difficult to say the least. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “Why would you do that?” but never at Operation Gratitude – there I was always welcomed with open arms. At Operation Gratitude, I was always told that it was something to be proud of.

I was recently awarded my ROTC scholarship at the National Guard Armory on an Op Grat assembly day. To be honest, I was pretty embarrassed by the whole thing – I wasn’t sure why my parents wanted to make such a big deal of it, and I wasn’t prepared to stand in front of a massive group of people. But standing up there, looking back at Carolyn with tears in her eyes, I can honestly say that it was the proudest moment of my life. My Lt. Colonel wanted it to be presented to me at my school, but I refused. It meant so much to me to have my dreams fulfilled at the place that has helped me grow so much over the years. Now that I am moving on, my only hope is that I can inspire new volunteers to go and benefit from it the way I have.

I’m leaving soon which sadly means that I will be leaving this all behind. When I come home for breaks I will be sure to stop by, but it won’t quite be the same. My blue supervisor shirt will be replaced by my fatigues, and I’ll only be around for an assembly day or two. Though this isn’t quite goodbye, I wanted to let you all know – supervisors and volunteers alike – how much you have truly touched my heart. Your love and support has meant the world to me, and I wouldn’t be the same without you.

From Tennessee, I will continue to update the blog from time to time with updates on my Army ROTC adventures and with stories from Operation Gratitude as well. I wish you all the best, and God bless.

About Operation Gratitude

Operation Gratitude annually sends 200,000+ care packages to Veterans, First Responders, New Recruits, Wounded Heroes, their Care Givers, and to individually named U.S. service members deployed overseas and their families waiting at home. Each package is filled with food, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, as well as personal letters of support. Our mission is to lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of the Military and First Responder communities, and provide volunteer opportunities for civilians anywhere in America to express their appreciation to all who serve our nation. Each package contains donated product valued between $45 and $100 and costs our organization $15 to assemble and ship. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than 1.6 Million Care Packages.
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