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Stories of Service: Operation Gratitude

Operation Gratitude is a national organization that sends care packages to members of the military who are deployed around the globe.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There are thousands of American troops stationed all over the globe and while we're all grateful for their service, one woman has made it her mission for 20 years to not only say thank you, but to send proof of her thanks to servicemembers that she's never met.

In this week's Stories of Service we'd like to introduce you to the organization called Operation Gratitude.

They're lined up and ready to pack. Snacks and reminders of home are going into care packages that will be sent to thousands of troops around the globe.

"The idea behind the organization is not just to say thank you but to provide every American with the opportunity to say thank you," said Operation Gratitude founder Carolyn Blashek. 

Blashek started Operation Gratitude after she met a distraught soldier ready to go to war who didn't think anyone would care if he died in battle.

"And I thought to myself, I care and Americans care," said Blashek, "and I decided I had to do something to show him and all his comrades when they're deployed and shots are being fired that people at home really appreciate what they're doing."

That's when Operation Gratitude began.

"I sent the first 4 care packages the day the war in Iraq started," said Blashek, "to date we've sent over 3.8 million care packages, that's a lot of troops that understand now that we care."

Hundreds of volunteers from CSX helped at a recent Operation Gratitude event in Jacksonville by packing, sorting, taping and sending out packages.

"We also have volunteers all over that help us from their own homes so they handmake scarves that go into the packages, they write letters for us, they collect funds and items to go in the care package," said Blashek.

Blashek didn't know anyone in the military when she started Operation Gratitude, but between then and now, her son joined the Marines, served for 6 years and left the Marines as a Captain in 2014.

An estimated 7,500 care packages were assembled at the Operation Gratitude event in Jacksonville. The organization sent more than 100,000 of them last year alone.

For more information about Operation Gratitude and how you can support their mission, visit: https://www.operationgratitude.com/

And if you have a Story of Service that you would like us to feature, please send an email to storiesofservice@firstcoastnews.com

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