Operation Gratitude is basically a one-woman operation. Carolyn Blashek, a Los Angeles-based former lawyer and mother of two, decided after Sept. 11 that she wanted to join the military. After being informed that she was too old, she volunteered at Bob Hope USO, where she spoke to troops heading overseas.
One day, Blashek talked with an Army officer, who told her that his mother had died and his wife had left him. He didn't think he would make it back home, he said, but that it didn't matter since no one cared anyway. Blashek realized that soldiers needed to feel personal attention just as much as they needed to receive care packages. She set up Operation Gratitude.
Operating from her home, Blashek made care packages, individually addressed to soldiers overseas. The packages included items like shampoos, DVDs, books and snacks. The response was overwhelming. Dozens of people got involved. I've visited Blashek's home and seen the stacks of materials in every corner of the house. Operation Gratitude needs your help: The cost of postage alone for each care package is $15 to $20. To donate, e-mail Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Operation Gratitude Web site at www.opgratitude.com.
Freedom Alliance is a major charitable organization dedicated to helping our troops. Its latest campaign aims to bring comfort to military men and women injured in the line of fire. The Walter Reed Medical Army Hospital is filled almost to capacity with soldiers wounded in Iraq. Fifty soldiers have lost limbs, sometimes more than one.
Freedom Alliance asks that you send phone cards, clothing gift certificates, food gift certificates, and cards and notes to our veterans. Other Freedom Alliance campaigns include a Scholarship Fund for children of wounded, killed or missing in action, and the National Military Leadership Academy, where teenagers can meet with military people and learn about the American military. To donate, visit www.Freedomalliance.org , or call (800) 475-6620.
It's the season for giving. Let's hope that all Americans, even anti-war ones, can find a place in their hearts for our troops.