The holiday season is a time when many families come together and celebrate each other’s company. However, people who serve on active duty in the military often miss out on this. Regardless of their distance, there are people this holiday season that are taking the time to acknowledge American troops and their service by sending them goods.
Operation Gratitude, a non-profit organization in Los Angeles sends care packages to soldiers, sailors, veterans, and many more. The packages contain items such as snacks, hygiene products, entertainment, and letters of support.
Some Granada Hills Charter (GHC) students volunteer at the local branch of Operation Gratitude in Chatsworth.
“I actually heard about Operation Gratitude through a group of friends and I was immediately intrigued. I decided to go with them and saw how just doing something so simple such as packing self care packages for the troops impacts them greatly. I have been going to Operation Gratitude for about two months now. From my experiences and impactful contributions I will definitely continue going,” sophomore Kavita Sidhu said.
Operation Gratitude was founded in 2003 by Carolyn Blashek. After 9/11, she started volunteering at the military lounge at the Los Angeles Airport. In March of that year, a soldier went into her office and began to break down at her desk. He was on leave from a war zone to go to his mother’s funeral, his wife had left him, and his only child had passed away as an infant. In that moment, he had no one else in his life to comfort him.
“I’m going back over there; I know I won’t make it back this time, but it really doesn’t matter because no one would even care,” he told Blashek, according to the Operation Gratitude website.
In that moment she realized that troops need to believe that there are people back home who care for them. After this, she started Operation Gratitude in her living room. It has grown exponentially and today inspires many Americans throughout the country who donate items and write letters of support to those who serve.
“The act of volunteering has allowed me to realize that simple contributions have a greater and deeper impact beyond surface level. Receiving one paracord bracelet or letter can positively affect the day or life of a service member, and volunteering at Operation Gratitude has allowed me to make that impact,” junior Emily Shi said.
Over the past 16 years, Operation Gratitude has delivered over 2.3 million care packages. The organization not only focuses on soldiers who serve overseas and in the U.S., but also their families.
“We are three months into deployment. Ashlynn loves her bear so much! She takes it to daycare everyday and sleeps with it every night. She said it reminds her of Daddy. I wanted to thank you so much again for all you do. You have made a difference in my daughter’s life,” a spouse of a deployed soldier wrote to Operation Gratitude.
The impact that this organization and students from GHC who volunteer there have on the troops, veterans, and their families is immense. Volunteering teaches many lessons and gives the opportunity to be selfless.
“I learned that the world is so much bigger than just our community. Knowing that every care package sent is reaching out to more than just one person opens up my perspective on life. Operation Gratitude has humbled me to be able to see the bigger picture in life,” junior Lesley Kim said.
Sometimes kindness does not need a grand gesture. It can be as simple as creating a care package.
“It has exposed me to experiences I never would have been able to be a part of without the act of volunteering,” junior Mauricio Serrano said.