My Volunteer Journal: Episode 34 – Writing a Letter of Appreciation to a Soldier for Operation Gratitude

troopswithpackagesSitting at the knitting table, finishing up volunteer activity number 32, I noticed that all the ladies were working on scarves. I asked what the scarf party was all about and Nancy told me they were making them for Operation Gratitude. Op Grat makes care packages for soldiers, which include: scarves, candy, beanie babies* (which the soldiers give to local children), and hand written letters of appreciation from American citizens. My ears perked up at the mention of the letters. I am constantly being asked, “What volunteer activities can I do? I’m stuck at home!” Well, my lovelies, this is definitely the charity for you.

The Operation Gratitude website has easy to follow instructions for all their volunteer activities including writing letters. You can write to a currently enlisted soldier or a veteran. I chose to do a letter to both. Progress was slow going at first… (My letter is in italics)

Dear World War II Veteran-

No.

Dear WWII Veteran -

Nope.

Dear Veteran

My name is Raegan and I live in Los Angeles, CA.

No. no. no.

My mind kept shutting down after the introduction because I was too worried about being formal and PC. Once I shook off all the mental baggage the letter started to flow.

Dear WWII Veteran-

My name is Raegan and my grandfather was a World War II veteran as well. He served in the South Pacific, island hopping his way to Japan. Before he died last December, I was able to sit with him every night for a week and record the stories from his military days. I hope you have told someone your stories as well. They are a precious gift to anyone who hears them...

(You don’t get to read the middle of the letter because that is for the soldier.)

I truly appreciate what you did. You are one of the great American heroes.

Thank you for your service,

Raegan

The second letter was easier to write because I just imagined the enlisted person was my age.

Dear Soldier-

My name is Raegan and I am proud to come from a long line of soldiers. I know I had relatives who served in the Union army in southern Kentucky, which I’m sure was extremely dangerous. My grandfather bravely served in the South Pacific during World War II. My uncle died in service in Vietnam and his name now graces the wall in Washington. My father served in the military reserves as a doctor. I did not follow in their footsteps, but this is beneficial to you all, as I am extremely clumsy.

I am in awe of the sacrifice you have…

(The middle is for the soldier.)

Best wishes for a safe return and your health and happiness.

Thank you for your service,

Raegan

After typing out the drafts of each letter on my computer I found my cotton resume paper, which I never use, and my best pen, which was running out of ink as usual, and recopied the letters.

If you would like to write a letter or card to a service man or woman send your letters to:

Operation Gratitude 16444 Refugio Road Encino, CA  91436

If you want to write to a veteran send your letters to:

Thank a Veteran c/o Penny Alfonso 1970 Rangeview Drive Glendale, CA  91201

Handwritten letters and cards are greatly appreciated. Also be aware that your letter will be screened before it is sent on. There was a problem in the past with someone being not so nice. Keep it clean. Show your appreciation.

*The beanie baby collection and redistribution is truly ingenious.  Op Grat collects the beanies, and then ships them to the soldiers who hand them out to children in war torn areas.  Not only do the children get a toy, but they befriend the officers and help them stay safe by pointing out IEDs. Here's a quote from the Operation Gratitude website, "I live with 17 Marines and Sailors in one room. Everyone got a package and everyone loved it especially the cookies and beanie babies. The cookies are excellent and 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. Once again, thank you for everything and for all the hard work that you put into the package. LCPL ND"  Who knew something so little and simple could save a life.