02/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

National Day of Service -- Honoring our Military Members with Operation Gratitude

This Monday, January 19, 2009, Operation Gratitude will join Washington DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Serve DC, in partnership with our dedicated corporate sponsor, Target, and thousands of volunteers in DC to assemble care kits for inclusion in Operation Gratitude care packages. This "Day of Service for Our Military" will provide the opportunity for more than 10,000 Americans to express their appreciation to tens of thousands of men and women who serve our nation in uniform.

But it all began six years ago with just one soldier.

In March of 2003, I was volunteering at the military lounge in the Los Angeles airport. One day, a distraught soldier rushed in needing to talk to someone. He told me he was on emergency leave for his mother's funeral, his wife had left him and his only child had died as an infant. He had nobody. He was returning to a war zone and did not believe he would make it back, but he said it really wouldn't matter because no one would care.

On that day, I knew I had to do something to let service members know that someone does care.

That's when Operation Gratitude was born.

Since that time, tens of thousands of generous donors and volunteers across the country have joined us to express their appreciation to our courageous service members by creating individually addressed care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items, hygiene products and personal letters of appreciation.

This patriotic outpouring of support enabled us last month to send our 400,000th care package. That package represented 3.2 million pounds of product and over 20 million individual items sent by Operation Gratitude to our Military members in combat.

On the National Day of Service, a day to celebrate the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Operation Gratitude team is honored to work with our partners Serve DC and Target along with thousands of volunteers to assemble 75,000 care kits at RFK Memorial Stadium in Washington D.C.. These kits will be included in the 2009 Operation Gratitude care packages, including our milestone 500,000th--half millionth package that will be shipped later this year.

Serve DC and Target have worked hard to obtain fantastic items for Monday's care kits--products that I know will be very welcomed by our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

But equally important as the specific items are the energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers who pack them. When our recipients open their Operation Gratitude packages, they will see not only great items, but they will feel the love, respect and appreciation of the American people. And that is what Operation Gratitude and "A Day of Service for Our Military" is all about.

If you've ever wondered how you can show your support to our military in a very personal, hands-on and meaningful way...this is it. Please sign up online at and come out to RFK Stadium on Monday January 19th to help us show our troops that we really do care. For ways to show your support throughout the year, please visit: Operation Gratitude: How You Can Help.