The Best Presents Don’t Cost You Anything

This is an intensely memorable weekend for many Americans, especially those in the military and their families.

Yesterday was the annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. President Bush was in attendance as Navy shut out Army, 34-0.

There is intense rivalry between the two teams who are students at their respective military academies at Annapolis and West Point. It was, and always is, a particularly poignant game for the first year students; they play their final match against one another before graduation next year.

Pearl HarborAnd today, of course, is the 67th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Until September 11 2001, the attack on Pearl Harbor was the closest that war had come to the U.S.

Both attacks share some similarities: they were sudden, literally out- of-the-blue strikes from the air. Both attacks caused horrible destruction and both left our country permanently changed. In a way 9/11 was the Pearl Harbor for the grandchildren of those men and women who experienced the shock of Pearl Harbor and then went on to serve in World War II.

The theaters of war consequent to 9/11 have seen the deaths of many American and Coalition service personnel. During that time, various organizations back here in the States have formed for the purpose of supporting our troops by sending packages and letters from “home” to those deployed in the danger zones.

One such group is Operation Gratitude. I have written about them before, an amazingly organized and well-supported organization which does outstanding work in getting companies to donate products for the packages they send out to deployed troops. For example, at the Army-Navy football game yesterday, holiday cards were passed out to those attending the game so that they could write messages to the service personnel who will be getting Op Grat packages.
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Operation Gratitude conducts a year ’round letter-writing campaign designed to make sure that American troops deployed out of the country get notes from people back home who want to be able to thank service personnel individually for their work and sacrifice.

This holiday season, they are stepping up their efforts to encourage people to write emails that will go into the holiday packages. There is a letter writing contest. By writing as many individual emails as you can, you increase your chances of winning the drawing to be held when the holiday campaign is over. If you like coffee, this is definitely the contest for you!

Here’s the link to information about the letter contest and the rules.

This is Op Grat’s home page.

The easiest thing to do is to read the rules and then leave a window open here. That way, as you finish a letter, you can return to the email window and start another as time permits. It only takes a few minutes of your time to dash off a quick email of gratitude to one of our military. I have done this on several days. If your have the window open, you’ll get on a roll. Each letter written makes the next one easier.

Think of these letters as Christmas presents that don’t cost you anything, yet they are priceless parts of yourself given in admiration to someone who is over there doing a next-to-impossible task. He or she needs an individual, personalized thank you from one of us.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the season than by expressing your gratitude to one of our military. Try it, you’ll see what I mean. And see if you can get people at your workplace or others in your family to join you.

The campaign ends this week, on December 12th, so open that page!

5 thoughts on “The Best Presents Don’t Cost You Anything

  1. James, are you sure there isn’t one? I only found out about this because of another commenter, Babs, who is involved with Op Grat.

    OTOH, it is a very American characteristic to “DO SOMETHING”, as Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out so well. It could almost be our national motto.

    I’ll bet we have more volunteer groups per square mile than any other country. In fact, our deep need to “do something” has gotten us into trouble on more than one occasion.

  2. James– I just thought of a possible way to locate any groups like this in the UK (or other countries): see if you can find any milblogs –i.e., blogs that are run by ex-military people or families who track the progress of their men and women.

    The US has lots of milblogs, the most famous being Michael Yon, though he has long passed into another realm.

    Yon got to Iraq on his own dime and managed to massage the system to permit him to follow the war up close and personal. This is what I meant about the American character — i.e., “it’s easier to apologize than ask permission”.

    So he just showed up in Iraq to take photographs of the war. Knowing military procedures and being very prudent, he worked his way into a quasi-acceptance by those in charge. His harrowing experiences (unarmed) have produced pictures of great moment and quality and a good book.

    So far, Yon has managed to make do with donations and sales of his book(s) and photographs. When he was just starting out, he needed night glasses and a new camera for his work. IIRC, we did a bleg for equipment, as did many others.

    Yon is a throwback to what journalism used to be. No “j” school for him…

    BTW, he often mentions the Coalition troops.

    He’s very recently improved his blog format, dg. When the pros took over, they made it too slick. Now I see he’s returned to multiple postings on the home page.

    Here’s a quote from Afghanistan:

    Few Afghans can tell the difference in uniform or equipment between Germans, Americans, Brits or Estonians or any of the other dozens of nations here. And similarities in vehicles and equipment can cause confusion among U.S. and Canadian forces themselves. So we can’t really expect illiterate, Afghan civilians to tell the difference between an American and a French jet at midnight. But you know the result: when bombs or bullets fly off in the wrong direction, which inevitably happens in a hot war, when there is an occasional overuse of force, it gets blamed on Americans — or the “U.S. led coalition” — with the implication that the U.S. engineered the error. This is partly a function of the expert propaganda machine that the Taliban and its fundamentalist allies bring to bear — and, of course, of a world media eager to exploit such stories.*

    For our part and to the credit of our leadership, the U.S. is reluctant to publicly correct the record, since finger-pointing can only cause friction in the coalition…

    Later he adds, in defense of the French,

    But I will say that a small American team told me recently that it was a French jet who came to their aid during an ambush, and expertly dropped a bomb straight onto a Taliban position.

    *my emphasis.

  3. “Until September 11 2001, the attack on Pearl Harbor was the closest that war had come to the U.S.”

    What are you talking about? The Revolution, the war of 1812, the Mexican war, the civil war, none of that happened?

  4. Thank you Dymphna for your post.

    Operation Gratitude,, is a totally volunteer effort. Not one person gets a dime for their efforts, unlike other “charities.”

    Next weekend we will be celebrating our 400,000th package of cheer!

    Having been to the assembly site in Van Nuys, CA you can’t imagine the hundreds of people that show up to fill and mail the boxes and the excitement building over our 400,000th box!

    I was at the Army/Navy game and the cards donated to the effort were very, very nice. It did my heart good to see people sending a small shout out to our deployed during the holiday season. Taking two minutes to write a short note to someone so far from home is a small thing but is greatly appreciated.I would encourage all readers of this site to send a quick email. If you are not an American citizen I would think that your note of support would be even more meaningfull…

    My son is deployed. He is busy fighting the pirates… He got an OpGrat package a few weeks ago. It contained a hand made scarf and a hand made Christmas ornament among other things. My son was astonished by the outreach of the citizens of his country!

    I wish you all a Merry Christmas and, I wish all western soldiers, sailors and airmen a safe return to our countries. In the meantime, a little bit of love will go a long way.

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