USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines on board USS Ronald Reagan received a surprise delivery of individual care packages June 30, sent from volunteers and members of Operation Gratitude, while deployed to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Operation Gratitude is a non-profit organization that has supported forward-deployed troops around the world with care packages for eight consecutive years and counting.
"We sent packages to every person stationed on the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Chancellorsville and USS Preble," said Carolyn Blashek, founder and president of Operation Gratitude.
The organization sent more than 4,500 packages to the three ships out of the roughly 100,000 packages sent annually worldwide. Exhibiting a deep appreciation for servicemembers, volunteers and donors provide products for care packages, with an average box consisting of approximately $50 dollars worth of donated items.
"Operation Gratitude's mission is twofold; to put a smile on every servicemember's face, letting them know Americans care, and providing an avenue for every American to express their appreciation to our military and their families," said Blashek.
Blashek has oversight for the entire organization, but recognized volunteers and donors throughout the United States.
"We work with supporters all over the country who organize collection drives for us to provide items and letters for the packages," said Blashek. "There are several more opportunities to support our program such as recycling, knitting, and fundraising."
Volunteers of Operation Gratitude put a lot of care and effort into putting together care packages by hand-making stuffed animals, holding letter-writing campaigns throughout the community, recycling used cell phones, and even knitting and crocheting scarves.
"My satisfaction in sending the packages is in feeling that I am serving the United States, and at the same time, hopefully putting a smile on the face of a hero in harm's way," said Blashek.
Blashek said that so far more than 650,000 packages have been sent to deployed servicemembers and expects that number to increase to 250,000 annually.
Many Sailors and Marines aboard Reagan expressed gratitude for the surprising gesture.
"I think Operation Gratitude is awesome," said Chief Aviation Ordnancemen Jorge Maldonado. "I haven't received a single package during this deployment, so for people I don't even know to unexpectedly send something to me brought a lot of joy to my day."
Maldonado said he hopes crewmembers feel appreciative of the support, and seek opportunities to give back and support this organization and its members.
"If I could speak to Operation Gratitude organizers and supporters, I would say thank you. The program is very well thought out, you touch a lot of Sailors and Marines through care packages," said Maldonado
Many Sailors and Marines get a morale boost when they receive packages from home and unexpected packages such as those from Operation Gratitude boost morale even more.
"It makes you feel pretty good to get a package because it brings up morale," said Logistics Specialist 1st Class Atiba Johnson, Reagan's post office leading petty officer. "It's definitely nice knowing someone's thinking of you. It adds excitement to life, and it reminds us why we're out here doing the type of job we're doing."
Ronald Reagan CSG is comprised of Ronald Reagan, guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, which includes guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88).
Embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 includes the Black Knights of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, the Argonauts of VFA-147, the Blue Diamonds of VFA-146, the Death Rattlers of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, the Black Eagles of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the Cougars of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 139, the Providers of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 and the Black Knights of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4.
For more news from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and the Ronald Reagan Strike Group, visit http://www.public.navy.mil/airfor/cvn76 or visit the Official USS Ronald Reagan Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ussronaldreagan. For more news from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) - Ronald Reagan Strike Group, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.
For more news from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) - Ronald Reagan Strike Group, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.