The Operation Gratitude team and I returned home from Washington D.C. with 100,000 Care Kits that we will use in our care packages as we March to a Million. The Care Kits were assembled in the Washington D.C. Armory with over 10,000 friends and volunteers from around the country. Operation Gratitude, along with Target and our partners, hosted the signature National Day of Service event in Washington D.C.
What a success!
It’s hard for me to accurately narrow down the greatest highlight of the journey. We arrived after some turbulent winds harshly guided us into Dulles International Airport. The team and I made a smooth trip from the airport to the hotel and were immediately immersed in the inaugural festivities. We interacted with people from all over the country ready to celebrate President Obama’s inauguration and volunteer for a National Day of Service. You wouldn’t believe the expression on people’s faces when we told them who we were and what we were up to. “You mean to tell me that you’re Operation Gratitude? I drove from Virginia to volunteer with you guys. I have a loved one in the military and I want to show my support,” one volunteer exclaimed at our hotel.
The team and I couldn’t wait to start the next day.
The first 3,000 volunteers filtered in by 10:00 AM on January 19th. I couldn’t believe how many people braved the frigid weather to wait in line for hours and work on behalf of Operation Gratitude for hours more. Perhaps the answer lies in the many thanks Operation Gratitude received from the service members present on site. I was caught off guard when five Airmen approached Operation Gratitude’s table to tell us they received Operation Gratitude care packages not too long ago. “The package meant the world to me,” one said. The Airman pointed to our care package displays as he recounted the importance and usefulness of the items inside the care package: “Oh man, there is the 5-Hour energy and toe warmers that I received. Thanks, Operation Gratitude!”
I enjoyed hearing about people’s encounters with Operation Gratitude more than anything. Perhaps the biggest fanfare, however, was the arrival of Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden and their 100-strong party. They arrived to cheers from the crowd. Vice President Biden said hello to a few individuals, but couldn’t wait to get on the assembly line and start assembling care kits.
The Vice President told everyone how proud he is of his son, Beau Biden, and of Beau’s service to our country. Beau, who served a tour in Iraq, gratefully received a paracord bracelet, made by one of Operation Gratitude’s volunteers, from our founder, Carolyn Blashek.
The Vice President and Dr. Biden left the same way they arrived — to cheers from the crowd — but with the added knowledge that they just touched the lives of our service members deployed in harm’s way.
Every one of the volunteers I saw leaving walked away with a wide smile on his or her face. The volunteers may have even been a little tired but it was hard to tell. No less than six different times throughout the day, hundreds of unrelated people were dancing to the music as they waited in line to assemble the Care Kits. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
The atmosphere inside the D.C. Armory was cheerful, exuberant, and charitable.
The event was also productive. The Operation Gratitude team hurried home to prepare for the arrival of the 100,000 Care Kits that are now en route. The D.C. volunteers loaded up 12 trucks from both the Minneapolis (Target headquarters) and Washington D.C. events that will arrive at Operation Gratitude headquarters later this week. The Ground Crew will offload the items and immediately begin making history as we March to a Million Care Packages.
Here is Target’s recap video:
What a great day…and a start to a great year! I hope you will join us on this special journey!