In August 2003, Carolyn Blashek and I met just by chance and I mean that literally – she came over to the armory where I was working full-time and I just happened to answer the door. As a member of the military, I wanted to support my fellow deployed soldiers; Carolyn wanted to support ALL the brave service members deployed in harm’s way. We discovered we had one common goal: to let our troops know that someone at home cares about and appreciates them!!
Okay– so let’s get busy and see what happens!
Seven wonderful years later, Operation Gratitude is running full steam ahead and it’s truly been an amazing journey. We have met some of the most wonderful people, worked with great companies that made incredibly generous donations, and experienced the outpouring of support from fellow Americans. To say the least, it has been very moving – often to the point of tears.
Those of us who volunteer at the armory find ourselves among the most patriotic people I have had the privilege to meet; see letters pour in from all over the country; hear stories from people – like ourselves – who just wanted to “do something,” so they organized letter writing campaigns or collection drives; and see Boy and Girl Scout Troops making packages and learning what selfless service and ‘giving back’ really mean.
Working side by side with these amazing people was such a privilege for me and I felt truly honored to meet them. We have shared laughs, tears, and some great times together.
Then, in 2007, it was my turn to deploy to Iraq. I went knowing that support for the military men and women existed at home, and it gave me comfort and much pride to serve among my fellow soldiers and do my part.
So after years of making packages, I was now on the receiving end. To see other soldiers receive their care packages – well it was PRICELESS for me – a great sense of pride as the packages appeared all over the base in different units. These packages truly lifted the troops’ morale around our area, especially during the holidays, as it is tough being away then from our families. There were soldiers who had not received a care package from anyone since they left home and to receive a care package from complete strangers meant so much to them. I saw and experienced what the packages truly do for the soldiers. There are no words to describe the emotions but to say that our ONE COMMON GOAL is met each and every time a soldier opens a package!!
I used to say to the volunteers that I wished I could take the patriotism that is felt at the armory on assembly days and put it into the boxes so the soldiers could feel it when they opened their care package. After being on the receiving end, and seeing it for my own eyes, I can honestly say that the soldiers DO experience an immense sense of happiness, pride and patriotism when opening that package and they understand that we did something special for them, just as they work so hard to protect us at home!
What started as a common goal for a few people is now a shared mission for tens of thousands of great Americans all over this wonderful country through their support of Operation Gratitude.
As a soldier I can tell you that this one common goal is of the utmost importance: When we are thousands of miles away from home, we wonder if people still remember we are out here; if they recognize the hardships that we endure day in and day out; and we question if they support us.
Well , thanks to these lovingly assembled and personalized Operation Gratitude care packages, the soldiers know without a doubt that the answer to those questions is a big:
“ YES – WE REMEMBER – and will support you until you are all home.”
Staff Sergeant Elizabeth Cowie
San Jose, CA