There are probably a million things we can all be grateful for; health, family, friends, and not being Alec Baldwin being among the most significant. Another group of individuals that should be high on that list are the service men and women who have, and currently protect our right to live in a free nation on a daily basis.
The non-profit organization Operation Gratitude celebrated a million-mark milestone of its own just recently as it sent out its one-millionth package to an active and currently deployed member of the United States armed forces.
I touched “the precious”.
For those that are new to my posts on this topic, Operation Gratitude is a volunteer based organization that, for over 10 years now, has sent care packages to troops via USPS Priority Mail to military stations around the world. Think of them as the Santa of the military community. That essentially makes regular volunteers like Hot Nerd Girl and I virtual elves, only taller…. although just barely.
After being introduced to the organization by my NBFF about seven years ago, I have made it an annual holiday tradition to volunteer my time and money to the cause of keeping the troops spirits up. You may not think a large USPS Priority Mail shipping box would be enough to lift troop morale, but to that you would be mistaken.
War vet and long time Operation Gratitude volunteer, “Jack”, singing in trubute to those who have served.
Having come across several service members during my day to day schedule and through my business Active Country – from which I donate a percentage of my profits – the genuine smiles that arise just from the mentioning of Operation Gratitude is enough to know that what I’m doing is worth it. This year, my NBFF and I were accomanied by none other than Papa Outlaw (aka Homer) and Tracy’s sister-in-law, whom bore a striking resemblence to a certain Scarlett Johansson (as I made clear more than a few dozen times).
The packages themselves are filled with items donated by companies across the nation, most notably 5-Hour Energy, Emergency-C and many others corporations (a full list is available here). Private donations are also accepted, and the boxes are filled to the brim with candy, dvds, socks, toothbrushes, and whatever else can be crammed into the 10x10x8 boxes without it breaking the gravitational limitations of the delivery plane.
Probably one of the most appreciated parts of the package is the personal letters that are included in each box. Just knowing that people care, especially outside of their own family, lets them know that what they are doing is worth it too. In addition, every year, the milestone box is filled with some extra goodies from the sponsors, like motorcycles, vacations, and shopping sprees to fine retailers like Target (pronounced Tar-jay). This year was no different, and aforementioned sponsor 5-Hour Energy stepped up to the plate big time, providing the millionth package with keys to a brand new 2014 Ford F-150, which leads me to one important question. Is it too late to enlist?
Due to the momentous marker of reaching a million packages sent since its inception a decade ago, this year’s Operation Gratitude holiday event was the biggest and most ambitious on record. A huge tent was raised, and a replica of the Vietnam Veteran’s Wall was brought into town just for the occasion.
There were of course celebrity attendees as well, including famed weather man Fritz Coleman, actor Joe Montanya and King of Queens actress Leah Remini. Despite the star power, the award for guest of honor went to special guest Bea Cohen. At 103 years young, Cohen is the oldest surviving World War II veteran living in California. The most unbelievable thing about that it is, after all these years she still decided to stay in California. That and the fact there are other World War II vets still alive out there that are older than 103!
As they say though, age is just a number and I kid you not, this woman was sharper than some teenagers I know and could probably give Stan Lee a run for his money. She regaled the crowd with stories of collecting socks from the troops, and Geek Outlaw even offered up his own pair to her. Why I had a pair of dirty socks in my pocket, I’m still not quite sure, but it’s the thought that counts no matter what the smell, right?
Appropriately there was the laying of the wreaths ceremony in honor of those who were still alive – and in attendance – and had served in all of our most recent wars. The entire event commenced with a special flyover by US Air Force that simulated the rare “Missing Man” formation where one of the planes tails off from the rest of the aircraft flight paths.
This is a special flyby that pays homage to German World War I fighter pilot, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (Gesundheit), also known as the Red Baron, because it’s easier than saying his name. It was truly a site to see and immediately made me reminisce about the Peanuts cartoons of Snoopy flying his dog house disguised as the German pilot ace. Hey, if there is one thing I’m guilty of, being mature is not one of them.
Delivered directly from World War I planes to your grocer’s freezer..
I know what you are thinking, when is the Outlaw going stop his yammering and tell us who received the prized box with a new pickup truck. Fortunately for all of you, the announcement was literally just made late last week, and the recipient was USS Gettysburg Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Brook Oekerman. Seeing as my cousin Garrett Schock recently served on the same ship only a few short years ago, it sent an extra special tingle down my back that I got to touch and help pack that millionth package that touched base at seas, literally.
Speaking of special tingles, upon actually seeing the pictures and video segment (click here to view) of the delivery ceremony, only one thing came to mind. Is Brooke single? The killer smile (not literally, but who knows) and pretty eyes quickly made me wish I had signed up at that Navy kiosk giving away the free t-shirts at the mall several years ago.
Mind you, if Brooke is not single and her significant other is currently reading this, please note that I bleed like a hose at a wet t-shirt contest in Florida on spring break, and my bones are as brittle as the outer layer of a croissant.
In all seriousness though, I do want to thank Brooke, her cohorts on the USS Gettysburg, and all those who serve by land, air, and sea for selflessly sacrificing their lives and a comfortable way of life, so people like myself can endlessly make fun of themselves on the internet from the comfort of my own living room while wearing only a 17 year old pair of Fruit-of-the-Loom briefs.
Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! God bless you all, God bless the USA… and God bless the internet.
(If you would like to donate to Operation Graitude, you can do so by visiting the link at the top of the page, or by clicking here: www.OperationGraitude.com.)