America Supports You: Drive Offers Chance to Show Patriotism

America Supports You: Drive Offers Chance to Show Patriotism

By Samantha L. Quigley

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2008 – Tens of thousands of care packages will be packed and ready for shipping to servicemembers deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and on ships at sea in time for Independence Day.

Operation Gratitude’s annual “Patriotic Drive” makes sure servicemembers have a little piece of home around the nation’s birthday.

"This will be the fastest-paced care package drive we have ever undertaken," said Charlie Othold, director of operations. "We only have two weekends of prep work and two weekends of assembling, but we will get a package shipped to every servicemember whose name we receive."

Seven days a week since May 1, volunteers and military officials have been sorting, inspecting and organizing millions of donated items, paving the way for the packing to begin.

On May 17, the opening day of the box-packing portion of the Patriotic Drive, more than 60 Operation Gratitude supervisory volunteers were honored with the presentation of the "President's Volunteer Service Award."

Boxes will continue to be packed during the coming Memorial Day weekend as well. In observance of the May 26 holiday, the organization will pay tribute to wounded warriors with a screening of the documentary "Warriors … in Their Own Words.”

Operation Gratitude will celebrate a significant milestone that day, too. Its 350,000th care package, the contents of which will remain a secret until the moment the box hits the packing line, will be packed.

The last three milestone Operation Gratitude care packages contained the keys to new Dodge or Jeep vehicles.

Operation Gratitude accepts care package donations all year, but with the recent postal rate increases, Bill Van Trump, development director, is encouraging supporters to donate funds to pay postage costs, rather than purchase items for the packages.

"We have been extremely fortunate to receive very generous product donations from our corporate sponsors this year," Van Trump said. "Our biggest needs now are funds and personal, hand-written letters."

Operation Gratitude, which annually sends thousands of care packages to deployed servicemembers, is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program that connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abro