Remembering our heroes through Operation Gratitude

Eagle Scouts Justin Holland and Sam Chamberlain with handmade items included with donations to Operation Gratitude for care packages during Justin’s Eagle Scout Project collection last year.

Veterans Day reminded me of my son Justin’s Eagle Scout project, and I thought it would be nice to make others aware of Operation Gratitude and their mission. At this time last year, we were trying to beat the holiday deadline as Justin wanted to collect items for care packages for soldiers. 

He did some research and found that Operation Gratitude had a very organized and extensive program with a number of ways to show soldiers, their families, wounded warriors and veterans our gratitude for their service. They collect the items and are able to distribute them appropriately and to those in most need. Many times an officer will identify a particular person who is not receiving communication from home or is in an especially difficult situation, and those requests can be filled by Operation Gratitude and their wonderful staff and volunteers through donations collected from across the country.

We were thankful for the many people involved in Justin’s project: those near and far, and those young and “young-at-heart”! Over 150 cards and letters were made, some by Normandy Elementary School classes, some with the help of senior citizens at the Knickerbocker, and others by a Cub Scout pack during a meeting.

Handmade items are the favorites on the wish list and we were lucky to include some skillfully knit scarves with letters of appreciation made by local ladies and also Justin’s grandma in Jamestown, NY (who made four). Another lady made some beautiful blank holiday cards for our heroes to send to THEIR loved ones!

Donations of socks, personal hygiene items, snacks, money, and more were collected. Over 300 dental care items were donated by area dentists. Beanie Babies are also sometimes included in the care packages and one grandma generously donated a whole bag full, bringing the total up to 75. Why Beanie Babies? To quote a Marine on the Operation Gratitude website: “The Beanie Babies help us out a lot with the local kids. We give them candy and toys and they give us the location for IED’s.” What a sad reality.

Used cell phones and inkjet cartridges were collected at Normandy and Bay Community Services. These items were recycled with a company which sends the proceeds to Operation Gratitude. If more come in, we will be sure they are forwarded to benefit this organization.

Justin thanks all those who contributed to his project last year, which helped our heroes and also helped him to achieve his Eagle Scout Rank in June with BSA Troop 235 (Bay Presbyterian Church). It’s exciting to report that a couple recipients of care packages responded to two of our Normandy students who made cards or letters for Veterans Day last year. We received a letter and photos from a 1st Lieutenant from Los Angeles who is stationed in Afghanistan, and a letter from a US Navy Ensign from Lexington, KY, who is stationed on the USS Germantown in Japan. Both were very appreciative, told a little bit about their service, and expressed how much it means for them to be remembered.

Please consider exploring www.operationgratitude.com to see if there is a way you would like to help put a smile on a soldier’s face, or that of a veteran, wounded warrior, or child with a parent in the military. They are currently nearing the end of their annual Holiday Drive; items sent in by Dec. 5 will be included in holiday care packages. Participate as a group or as an individual.

There should be something for everyone on the website “wish list”! Please note, if you are interested in making scarves, there are specific guidelines on the website. If you have any questions, contact opgrat@gmail.com. Just a simple letter is very meaningful and one of their favorite items in the package! Please remember their sacrifice and let them know we are thankful!

Julie Holland

I enjoy my job at Normandy Elementary Library, and I am also know for my enthusiasm for monarch butterflies (raising, tagging, and sharing my hobby with others!)

Read More on Community Service
Volume 4, Issue 23, Posted 9:24 AM, 11.13.2012