"SERVING THOSE WHO SERVE
US IS BOTH AN EXPRESSION
OF THANKS FROM A GRATEFUL
NATION AND A FITTING TRIBUTE
TO OUR MILITARY HEROES
WHO INSPIRE US TO A CAUSE
GREATER THAN OURSELVES."
From the very start of this country’s longest war, Carolyn Blashek has not gone a day without thinking about the men and women who put their lives on the line overseas for the freedoms we enjoy at home. A former attorney and a “nice Jewish housewife,” Carolyn was so moved by the enormity of 9/11, that she tried to enlist in the military at age 46. She was sent home for being “too old,” and so began the odyssey that led to Operation Gratitude, the largest military support organization sending personalized care packages to deployed soldiers in US history.
In 2003, Carolyn sent her first care package to an unknown soldier serving in the Iraq War overseas. Soon her living room turned into a staging area and post office as friends and community joined in to send letters of thanks to soldiers, along with packages filled with toiletries, music, DVD’s, candy and love. The Military supports and embraces her efforts because they see the impact on troops deployed away from home. Thousands have sent Carolyn letters of thanks saying those packages are a reminder of why they are fighting in the trenches: for someone back home who has noticed the sacrifice they make--and cares.
Today Carolyn’s operation is so large that she uses the California National Guard Armory in Van Nuys for a staging area during packing drives. Thousands of volunteers attend, old and young. For Carolyn, it is not only important that our troops are honored and remembered by receiving the packages and letters, but that the rest of us can show our appreciation for them as well by working side by side in the packing efforts. To date, more than 550,000 packages have been sent to service members deployed overseas, each with a personal letter of thanks from someone back home.
Carolyn’s tireless efforts of service – and the enormity of their impact -- proved so inspirational to her children that they have followed in her footsteps. Her daughter received her Masters in Social Work at Columbia. Her son--who nominated her for this award--graduated from Princeton last year and shocked his parents by deferring medical school to join the U.S. Marine Corps. He is presently in Infantry Officer Training at Quantico, Va, and could not be prouder of his mother.
Never having anticipated this development, Carolyn remains in California, sending care packages to deployed soldiers, a group that beginning next year, will include her own son.