Van Nuys, CA - September 14, 2009 - For seven years, Operation Gratitude and its dedicated team of volunteers have sent hundreds of thousands of care packages to U.S. troops deployed overseas. In return, those volunteers have been overwhelmed by the thank you notes, photographs and personal letters they have received.
This year, in anticipation of the start of their annual Holiday Drive, Operation Gratitude is partnering with The American Veterans Traveling Tribute (www.avtt.org ) to honor all those who have served, and particularly all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
From October 14-18, the American Veterans Traveling Tribute will be in Van Nuys in support of the Operation Gratitude Holiday Drive. The AVTT Exhibit includes a September 11 tribute, a Cost of Freedom display of Gold Dog Tags (identifying each service member killed since Vietnam), and the centerpiece of the exhibit: An exact replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall (80% scale), displaying all 58,253 names of the men and women killed in the Vietnam War.
Located on the large lot adjacent to the Van Nuys National Guard Armory at the corner of Victory and Louise, the entire event will be free to the public. All ages are invited and encouraged to attend this first-ever display of The AVTT Exhibit in Southern California.
In addition to hosting The Tribute, Operation Gratitude volunteers will be busy with Prep activities inside the Armory as the organization begins to assemble and ship Holiday packages the following weekend. AVTT Exhibit attendees (ages 12 and older) are invited to participate in all Operation Gratitude Prep and Assembly activities.
"This is a beautiful and memorable way to launch our Seventh Annual Holiday Drive", said Carolyn Blashek, Founder of Operation Gratitude. "We are honored the American Veterans Traveling Tribute will be side by side with our volunteers paying respect to all our heroes. Many of our local citizens have never had the opportunity to see The Wall in Washington DC...this is an opportunity to express their gratitude right here at home."
Chair of the Tribute Event, Marty Martin added: "We are reaching out to schools, churches, temples, and youth, civic, fraternal and community groups, in an effort to invite as many people as possible to pay their respects to our fallen at The Wall and then walk the few steps to the Armory to express their appreciation to those currently serving by participating in Operation Gratitude prep activities."
Operation Gratitude will provide letter writing materials allowing children and adults to express their personal thoughts and appreciation to Service Members deployed overseas during the Holidays. Snacks, information and even scarf-making lessons will be offered at the Operation Gratitude tables at The Exhibit site.
Donations for the Holiday Drive Care Packages are encouraged.
Suggested items to donate: Beanie Babies Bags of Candy Beef Jerky (single-serve packages)
The American Veteran's Traveling Tribute Event schedule is as follows:
Wednesday October 14: Motorcade Escort of The Traveling Wall 4:00pm: Muster at Location to be announced 5:30pm: Color Guard and Greetings 6:00pm: Motorcade Departs 7:00pm: Arrive at Exhibit Site
Thursday October 15: 9am-Noon: Volunteers Set up Exhibit Noon-5pm: Open viewing 5pm-7pm: Opening Ceremony with Candle Lighting, Laying of Wreaths
Friday October 16: Open 8am-8pm 9am-3pm: School Visits 3pm-8pm: Open Viewing
Saturday October 17: Family Day 8am-8pm: School/Church/Synagogue/Youth Group Performances Sports Figures/Guest appearances 1pm: Color Guard and Formal Greeting
Sunday October 18: Open 8am-6pm 11am: Memorial Service with Condor Flyover 12 Noon: Parade of Honor Past The Wall 1pm-6pm: Open Viewing
Location: 17330 Victory Boulevard: Van Nuys, CA 91406 Corner of Victory and Louise Parking next door at the Skate Park and OneGeneration
For more information about the American Veterans Traveling Tribute: www.avtt.org
About Operation Gratitude Operation Gratitude (www.OperationGratitude.com) is the California- based 501 (c) (3) non-profit, volunteer organization that sends care packages of snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in hostile regions such as Iraq and Afghanistan and on military ships at sea. Its mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member's face and to express to all troops the appreciation and support of the American people. Operation Gratitude receives the names of troops from commanders in the field who see the positive impact of care packages on their troops' morale; the organization sends more than 100,000 care packages every year. For safety and security, all assembling of packages occurs at the Army National Guard armory in Van Nuys, California. Since its inception in March, 2003, Operation Gratitude has shipped more than 460,000 packages to American troops deployed overseas.
About American Veterans Traveling Tribute ("AVTT") AVTT (www.avtt.org) is a veteran-owned project that travels the USA to provide a forum for communities to HONOR-RESPECT-REMEMBER all who have sacrificed their lives for our country's freedom. In so doing, AVTT also honors all Veterans and those currently serving, by letting them know they will never be forgotten. AVTT is funded through sponsorship fees, donations, and sale of merchandise at events. Donations to support AVTT's mission are qualified charitable tax deductions through The Traveling Wall Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization.