As it did for so many Americans, 9/11 inspired Carolyn Blashek to take action. Following the deadliest terrorist attack in American history, she began volunteering in the military lounge at LAX. One conversation she had with a soldier departing for duty disturbed her deeply.
“I know I won’t make it back this time, but it really doesn’t matter because no one would even care,” he said.
From that point on, Blashek made it her mission to make all service people – active duty soldiers, domestic first responders, and Veterans of earlier conflicts – feel appreciated and cared for. It was in the course of fulfilling this goal that she started Operation Gratitude.
Since its inception, Operation Gratitude has assembled and shipped more than 2 million care packages filled with snacks, entertainment, and personal care items. Perhaps most importantly, the packages also include handwritten thank you notes from grateful citizens. Many recipients of the packages point to the cheerful, curious and gracious letters from children and students as their favorite part of the gift.
“Inside had many things, but one of the best things is what is in my hand,” said one grateful recipient. “A thank you letter from a child. Nothing can beat that to me. Thank you for all the support you give us. This is not my first deployment, nor is it my first package from you, but each and every time I am touched and rejuvenated.”
This past December, members of Veritas Prep’s Great Hearts, Great Hands Club supported Operation Gratitude by writing letters and making cards to be included in care packages.
“Operation Gratitude is truly a wonderful organization. It allowed us students to understand the hardships that the troops undertake. This experience gave me the opportunity to show my appreciation for the troops,” student Mahek Sawhney said. “It was a great way for me and my peers to show how grateful and thankful we are to the heroes and all they do for us.”
There were around 20 students who participated and the group sent off 28 cards. The club had made cards for soldiers three years ago, but this was the first time it had worked specifically with Operation Gratitude.
“I enjoyed making cards for Operation Gratitude. For me, these cards have the potential to bring a smile to someone’s face. By making these cards, I have gained a greater appreciation for soldiers and first responders by reflecting on the daily sacrifices that they have made so that we can be safe,” said Grace Khan, president of the Great Hearts, Great Hands Club.
The club is dedicated to “bringing the Veritas ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty closer to the Phoenix community through acts of volunteer service.” The members of the club participate in volunteer and charity works off campus and throughout the year.
According to the student website, by using “great hearts and great minds” through outreach, Veritas hopes to bring its ideals into the Phoenix community.