Volunteers take over DC Armory to create a special thank-you for veterans

Volunteers showed up at the D.C. Armory to help prepare care packages for area veterans. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)

With Veterans Day next week, a nonprofit spent three days in the D.C. Armory assembling care packages for area veterans.

They started Tuesday and over the course of several days, volunteers with Operation Gratitude made over 4,500 care packages that will be distributed to local veteran organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Foreign Legion.

The CEO and President of Operation Gratitude, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. James Johnson, told WTOP, “We’ve had everyday Americans who’ve shown up here to volunteer.”

In those packages, veterans will find snacks, such as fruit roll-ups, coffee and even handmade items from volunteers.

“I drew most of the pictures,” said 9-year-old Emerson from Ashburn, Virginia. “I drew some men and women in their uniform and I drew some airplanes and helicopters that they would use.”

Emerson said she volunteered Thursday with her family because her father is in the Army.

“When I’ve received those care packages, and you see the pictures that are on them. It’s just so meaningful,” Johnson said.

Johnson told WTOP about a recent letter sent by an active service member who received a package in September.

“When the Afghanistan evacuation happened, there were some units that just had an amazing amount of throughput go through their bases and so the workload just kind of went through the roof,” he said. “And we received a letter from an individual who received one of our care packages right after that had happened, and he was so appreciative and saying that, how hard that period was for them, and then to see this kind of appreciation from the American people was just really meaningful to them.”

Johnson, whose father served in the Army and son is currently in the military, said many of the volunteers with Operation Gratitude have family in the military, but not all do.

“And I’m just so thankful that we have Americans across the country, even those that haven’t served, who want to come out and say ‘thank you’ to those who’ve raised their hand, and potentially may go into harm’s way on behalf of us.”

Johnson said there are a number of ways for people to get involved with Operation Gratitude whether through monetary donations or volunteering.

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