Two words that can mean a lot.
Especially to people such as service members and first responders who have put their lives on the line, whether that’s in our own communities or in some faraway land.
Those two words are at the heart of Operation Gratitude, a volunteer organization that assembles care packages – more than two million to date – and bundles letters thanking American troops, veterans, recruits, wounded service members and caregivers, and first responders for their service.
Among those showing gratitude this Veterans Day were associates at Santander Consumer USA’s Dallas headquarters, and at call centers in North Richland Hills, TX, Mesa, AZ, and Englewood, CO.
Many appreciative SC associates took time out over two weeks to write letters of gratitude.
“Care package recipients tell us letters, notes and drawings are the most cherished items in their box,” Operation Gratitude reports on its website.
“I participated because I am part of this LARGE family connected to the military, the family that supports each other and fights to protect each other,” said Brandon M., an SC associate and Operation Gratitude participant, whose brother is a Marine veteran.
“I understand the fear, worry, sacrifice, and the unselfishness military families go through.”
“I have a profound admiration for selfless individuals, in general, and I feel that our military men and women, veterans and first responders are the best example of selflessness,” said Gesica D., another SC associate. “I believe they deserve to be honored all year around, and the handmade thank you cards give a more personal touch to the message we are trying to deliver.”
A third SC participant was thinking ahead to Thanksgiving and the holiday season.
“Many of us spend time during the Thanksgiving holiday being thankful for our own family and circumstances, but it’s easy to forget about those serving in the military,” James W. commented. “The peace of mind, safety and security that we experience is due in large part to our military service members and their sacrifices they make to put country first.”
“While many of us will be eating turkey and watching football with family, many of our service members are spending the day in harm’s way and away from their own families. I feel that we can’t remind our incredible service members enough that, while they are out of sight, they are not out of mind.”
Here are how some letter recipients have responded to Operation Gratitude’s efforts:
- “All 212 of my men and women have received care packages from you,” wrote one recipient. “There were lots of smiles around the unit when boxes were being opened and letters were being read. Everyone is super grateful for your kindness and support.”
- “My unit all got boxes … and everyone has been smiling,” said another. “It’s an amazing thing to see. We are so appreciative of what you all have done to bring a piece of happiness to the units around the world. It is so uplifting, and we cannot thank you all enough.”
- “Today I received one of your care packages,” wrote one service member who has been away from family and home for four-and-a-half months. “It means so much to me to read all the letters and see all the gifts … Know that the tears I cry tonight are tears of joy and appreciation from seeing the kind heart from so many of you back home.”
“We’re pleased to have Santander Consumer USA involved in this effort,” said Kevin Schmiegel, Operation Gratitude CEO. “The letters Santander associates write will go into Operation Gratitude Care Packages to help ensure service members, veterans, and first responders know how much all Americans appreciate their efforts and sacrifice, especially as we head into the holiday season.”
“We hear again and again from care package recipients that they treasure the letters and appreciate the words of encouragement and support,” Schmiegel said. “We know the Santander contribution will make a difference in the lives of our nation’s heroes.”