After September 11, 2001, Carolyn Blashek desired to serve our country. A 46-year-old mother of two, she went to her local Marine Corps recruiting station to enlist but was told she was “too old.” Determined to still do something, Carolyn began volunteering in the military lounge of the Los Angeles Airport. It was an encounter with a troubled soldier on his way back overseas that changed her life forever.
Through this interaction, Carolyn realized surviving is sometimes harder for soldiers than risking their lives. Soldiers need to know their lives matter. Within two weeks, Carolyn started Operation Gratitude. Operation Gratitude annually sends more than 100,000 care packages filled with snacks, toiletries, entertainment items, and personal letters of appreciation addressed individually to U.S. service members deployed, veterans, and children left behind. Its number one mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member’s face, and express to military and their families the appreciation and support of the American people.
Operation Gratitude has successfully provided an avenue for all Americans to express their appreciation to the military. The National Guard Armory has become Operation Gratitude’s headquarters, and Carolyn is especially pleased to see people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, and more come together in common cause to put a smile on a service member’s face and volunteer. It has additionally provided military families a place to be honored, feel comfortable, and be comforted.
When Carolyn started Operation Gratitude in her living room, she made a commitment to send care packages to servicemen and women in combat until the war ended. What she originally anticipated to be a yearlong commitment at most turned into a decade-long labor of love with nearly one million care packages shipped to troops in combat. Carolyn says her experience helps her realize all of us have the capacity to perform meaningful service for our country, whether we are in uniform or not.
Inspired by Carolyn’s story and want to get involved? Check out Operation Gratitude’s website on ways to get involved and volunteer here! http://www.operationgratitude.com/get-involved/how-you-can-help/