150,000 Troops Still in Harm’s Way

From time to time, I like to share letters from our troops to offer a glimpse into their lives and circumstances, and to convey their thoughts on the importance of our care packages.   Today, however, I am making an exception to pass along a note from one of our volunteers:

“Today I awoke dreading my errand-filled day.   The refrigerator was empty, the car’s air conditioner only blew hot air, I had to run to the post office to mail a package to my son at college, and then return home in time to meet the plumber who was scheduled to clean the drain from our washing machine.   Before running out, I slumped down at the kitchen table to sip coffee and catch up on my emails when I saw a reminder from Operation Gratitude about the Holiday Drive.

I am not sure why it stood out among all the clutter.  Maybe it was the fact that today was Veteran’s Day.  I started thinking about another email you had sent a couple of weeks ago from one of our brave warriors stationed in Afghanistan.  I searched through my Operation Gratitude folder and browsed through some of the other emails I had saved.

One letter written last summer read:
“Life here (AFG) is HOT.  We have seen the temperature reach as high as 148 degrees with dust  storms so bad that you couldn’t see your hand with arm extended.  We are a tight group of about 15 people so we work, eat and sleep within one  small area. It’s very common to have rockets and mortars shot at us at night, but we don’t get too concerned beca use the enemy is not very good at aiming.  We wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of  explosions and get into our reinforced bunkers and shoot back. We are much better at aiming…. I am married to a beautiful woman and have 5 children. My youngest will soon turn one.  I missed her first words, her first steps and a long list of other firsts that I only smile about through pictures, but I smile the most because I am here and I know that she is safe at home because of what we do. K.C. USMC”

I know he didn’t intend his letter to be a vehicle that would tug at my own guilt, but it did.  Here I am worried about an empty refrigerator and a broken air conditioner while he was protecting me in 148 degree temperatures.  I am sending packages to my son having fun at college yet this soldier hadn’t seen his new baby girl for months.  I am fretting about clean clothes and he is hunkered down enduring violent dust storms while being shot at by the enemy.

Then I found the email that really got to me:
“I am one of those single soldiers with no parents back home.  I hear from a friend or two every other month, but that’s about it.  I do get bills as I have them sent here in Afghanistan since I have no one back home and when I get notified of mail it is usually a bill or advertisement…. It was very uplifting to get your package with so much stuff to share with others,  ranging from munchies, toiletries, stationary, reading materials and wow, even an Eric Clapton t-shirt.  What you do is more appreciated than I can say and we’d like to help keep you going .  We were wondering if we could send a check or something to Operation Gratitude?  MSgt D”

He was wondering if he could send us a check!  Living on a soldier’s pay, defending my life, my children and my country and he wanted to know if he could send a check to Operation Gratitude.  It was then I vowed to start volunteering again. Enclosed, please find my donation and you have my promise to stay involved.  It is the least I can do for our heroes.
Best wishes, Dale O.”

With minimal media or political attention paid to the two on-going wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is easy to forget about our troops and simply focus on the holidays.  However, while we gather with family to carve the Thanksgiving turkey, 150,000+ of our brave troops journey out on dangerous patrols in the relentless pursuit of those who would deprive us of our liberties.  

We need your help and generous financial support to make certain every Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine serving in harm’s way knows we appreciate their sacrifices.   We must NOT forget them during the very time of year that is most painful to be away from home: The Holidays.

When Operation Gratitude began we were able to mail a package brimming with donated goods for $7.75.  Now, with increased postage rates and a crippled economy (forcing us to purchase supplies and services that were previously donated), our new cost has almost doubled to $15 per package.

We thank you for your enthusiastic support of Operation Gratitude through the years.  With your kindness we have been able to send more than 580,000 care packages individually addressed by name, to our Military men and women in combat.  We have let them know that someone, somewhere DOES care about them.

If you think your donations aren’t life changing, please read the re-print of a letter I received from a First Sergeant and sent to our supporters a few years ago.  It was about a soldier who planned to commit suicide on Christmas Day but changed his mind when he received our Operation Gratitude care package on Christmas Eve.  I then received a follow-up letter a little over a year later.  You can read both letters here: The Power of a Package.

There are still 150,000+ Americans deployed in harm’s way.

They give so much to us and ask nothing in return.

Please make sure that every deployed service member knows that someone at home cares about him or her this Holiday season.  Help us send at least 50,000 Holiday Care Packages in the next 4 weeks.

I know in these economic times, generosity comes at great sacrifice.  But our sacrifices pale in comparison to theirs.  In good conscience, how can we not dig a bit deeper if only to send a token of the appreciation we feel?

God Bless all of you and your loved ones.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.  Have a safe, healthy and joyous holiday season.

To donate online, please click here: Donate

To donate by check, please make payable and mail to:
Operation Gratitude
P.O. Box 260257
Encino, California 91426-0257

To donate stocks or for other donor information, please email cblashek@gmail.com

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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