The Power of a Package

This time of year, I am always reminded of the two most powerful emails I have received since the start of Operation Gratitude–they were written by the same person: a Staff Sergeant with whom I had worked in 2006 to send care packages to his entire unit.  I’d like to share them again.

On September 26, 2007 he wrote:

“HI Carolyn
Our unit will be leaving Iraq in a few weeks. I just wanted to thank you for your support of all soldiers over here. Your care packages helped lift morale here greatly and you should know helped save the life of a young soldier.

We had a soldier who never got mail, care packages, or anything. He did not have much family and as it turns out was planning on committing suicide on Christmas, but because that soldier received your care package it was like a Christmas gift. It made the soldier change his mind.

The soldier now writes letters and emails to folks whose names were in the box and the soldier’s attitude and outlook on life has really improved. This is not a story–it is true. We found out when the soldier finally opened up and talked to the Chain of Command about what was going thru his mind and got help for his depression.

Your care package made a major difference in a human life. Because of your organization, one less family received terrible news at Christmas time.

This has been my third deployment here and I remember how on my first deployment, I almost never got mail and then received a care package from your group.  It made me feel much better about being separated from my loved ones. Is there anything I can do to help out? Your group has helped me so I think I should return the great favor. What can I do to help out? Send $$ donations? Just name it. V/R, SFC J.S.”

A year later, he wrote again with a brief update and to ask if there was anything he could do to help:

Hello Carolyn,
It has been quite a while but I thought I would update you on the soldier whose life was saved by an Operation Gratitude care package.  His work attitude and leadership skills have so improved that he has since been promoted to Sergeant and is currently a squad leader and “one of the best” in the platoon he is assigned to, I am told by his platoon sergeant. He has a steady girlfriend and just recently re-enlisted.

If you had taken this soldier over a year ago and put him next to the soldier he has become you would swear it was two different people. And it was all due to a care package sent to a soldier by good people back in the states that he had never met before. Please let everybody there know.


As for me, I am leaving the service. Unfortunately, I had a run in with an IED that has ended my military career and left me pretty banged and burned up. I have been in recovery and had a few reconstructive surgeries over the last months. I only have three days left in service.

Please continue helping those still over there and going over there.  I know we are old news and a lot of folks back home are tired of the news there, but it is important that we not forget those who still serve.  We have to remember and support them “until everyone comes home.”

Take care and you once sent me an address where I could mail contributions. Could you send it again? I have lost it along with all my belongings and papers from Iraq. Take care and God bless.  SFC (for another 72 hours) J.S.


Reading his email, I was thrilled to learn about the newfound success of the soldier who had contemplated suicide.  It wasn’t until J.S. revealed his own “run in with an IED” that I started to cry.  I realized that life-changing incident happened only days, maybe hours after he emailed us last year. I was pained to think about the year he just experienced.  But then, I admit to you, I completely lost it when he asked me  how he could help us.

After reading his words I was an emotional wreck for the rest of the day.  Here was a wounded Warrior, whose own life took a devastating turn, who felt it was so important that we comprehend the impact of our packages, that he sent us an email 3 days before his final separation from the military urging us to continue our mission.

A Warrior whose own career had abruptly ended, but who felt compelled to donate his personal funds to make sure that his compatriots still received our care packages.

If J.S. can’t forget the heroic Warriors still serving, surely we must not forget them either.

And should you have a shred of doubt about your impact through Operation Gratitude, please re-read J.S.’s letters…again and again.

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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9 Responses to The Power of a Package

  1. Jennifer Gundersen says:

    I also have suffered PTSD and I would love to talk with someone that needs some understanding and care and a feeling of a safe place to talk or not to talk. I understand what can causes “triggers” and nightmares how no one can really understand you, sometimes you, yourself can’t even understand but it is a bad feeling that sometimes you just can’t shake and you don’t know what to do. In a way it controls you which is scary and keeps one paranoid, even outside of yourself, which is a place no one wants to be. So if I can help in this way I would love to I am a great listener and can sympathize with this condition which I feel is valued priceless and can all most match a moms box of cookies. God bless each and everyone of you and thank you all for everything you do. xo

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  5. Nikki says:

    No matter how big or how small the letters and care packages really do make a difference. Way back when, when my dad was deployed to Africa they didn’t have Operation Gratitude. We as military brats did what we could to send letters and packages to everybody in my dad’s platoon something. Especially during the holidays. It really does boost morale. To let them know that somebody out there really does care about them and are proud of what they are doing for us and our country. Even if you can’t afford much, just write a letter and let them know you care. For all you know, you could be saving their life. Like they are trying to do for you. Support our troops, any way you can.

  6. Piet Van rossum says:

    A number of years ago I brought my family to help one of the gift box drives. It was amazing how people came together to provide for the troops. My wife help with the letters and me and my two boys help remove empty boxes out of the way. Just last year my youngest son join the marines. He is now at SOI and soon will be graduating from there. He will be assigned to a battlion. It was hard during bootcamp for me and my wife and SOI has been better because we are able to see him weekly but I know this will end. We don’t know were he will be stationed but he probably will be deployed within a year. I just wanted to share that because when I think about him leaving in puts a pit in my stomach. I thank you so much for continuining reaching out to the troops. My church group will be sending boxes out also because we know how much it means to them. We pray for your organization Keep up the great work

    • L.h says:

      Good luck I wish the best for your son and your family. I know what it feels like to have that pit in your stomach.
      I am trying to influence my whole school to write letters and donate some useful items. But it isn’t so easy because I am only 12. But four girls in my school have just signed up. 1 has already given me her letter that she finished. After I get a lot of people to sign up for Operation Gratitude. I will send all the letters and donations, in a hopefully big box.


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