General James Amos, 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Brings Milestone Package to Afghanistan
Encino, CA--January 6, 2011: Operation Gratitude today revealed that the organization's 600,000th Care Package, containing the keys to a Victory Vegas 8-Ball Motorcycle, was personally delivered on Christmas Day by Marine Corps Commandant, General James Amos, to a Lance Corporal deployed in the Sangin District of Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The Lance Corporal, whose name will be revealed upon his return to the United States, is an infantryman with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (3/5), also known as the "Dark Horse Battalion."
Lt. Colonel Jason Morris, Battalion Commander; General James Amos, 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps
Photo Courtesy of Combat Camera
"I received a phone call from a very happy young Marine on Christmas Day," exclaimed Carolyn Blashek, Operation Gratitude founder. "He said: 'Your package means the world to me. I appreciate everybody who put something in that care package and everybody back home. And I thank you for your love and support, as do all the other Marines who received packages from y'all. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.'"
Ten days earlier, Blashek had flown to Washington DC to meet General Amos, who, upon learning the recipient was a Marine with the 3/5, had offered to deliver the 600,000th Care Package during his trip to Afghanistan. The Commandant met with more than 12,000 of the 20,000 Marines deployed in Afghanistan during the ten day trip. While visiting with the "Dark Horse" Marines in Sangin on Christmas Day, he presented Operation Gratitude's milestone care package.
Lance Corporal reads letter from Victory Motorcycles Photo Courtesy of Combat Camera
"We were outside in the cold night air; about 200 Marines had just finished their Christmas meal. All of the senior leadership in the Battalion were present," wrote General Amos. "The Battalion Commander called [the Lance Corporal] up in front of everyone and I gave him the package. He read your letter to everyone before he figured out what the gift was. Then he read the second letter from Victory and was handed a picture of the bike...that did the lad in. He was crying and his fellow Marines were cheering. I don't think that it could have gone any better."
General Amos added: "God bless the many faithful Operation Gratitude volunteers for what they have done...over 600,000 times!! My hearty thanks to all!"
The Victory Motorcycle will be presented to the Lance Corporal when the Battalion returns to Camp Pendleton in the Spring of 2011.
"Victory is always looking for meaningful ways to thank those serving in the military and our veterans," said Victory Motorcycles General Manager Steve Menneto. "The opportunity to partner with Operation Gratitude and donate one of our motorcycles to the organization's 600,000th care package means a lot to our company. We encourage everyone to continue finding ways to thank our troops for all they sacrifice in service to our country."
The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, deployed in Sangin since late September, 2010, have faced an extremely dangerous and challenging operational environment, sustaining numerous casualties. According to Lt. Colonel Jason Morris, the Battalion Commander, significant progress has been made in fracturing the enemy while providing humanitarian aid to the local populace.
"We hope our Milestone package, along with the approximately 1000 regular packages sent during our Holiday Drive, brought good cheer to the 3/5 Marines during this difficult time away from loved ones," said Blashek. "We look forward to welcoming home each of the Marines in the Spring and personally thanking them and their families for their courageous service to our nation and the cause of freedom."
L to R: Sgt. Major Carlton Kent, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps; Lt. Colonel Jason Morris, Battalion Commander; Lance Corporal; General James Amos, 35th Commandant
Photo Courtesy of Combat Camera
Operation Gratitude, a non-profit, volunteer-based organization, shipped more than 45,000 individually addressed care packages during the holidays and plans to send another five thousand or more before the Spring. The group's Patriotic Drive will start in late April and run through June, sending an additional 40-50,000 care packages to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guard and Marines deployed in harm's w