I have been so overdue with this post, but lots of terrific things have been happening. My amazing husband came home for Christmas and, that, as you know is always magical. The kids too were so thrilled to have daddy home to celebrate with us. We felt very blessed! Even though Christmas was spent away from our loved ones and dear friends back East, we celebrated this season with many of our Coast Guard family members who filled our home with love and warmth.
Through early December I had been so extremely busy, and my husband consequently was once he came home. He had just returned home from deployment and still gave 110% to help me make these deliveries happen.
Happily, my husband and I both became Operation Homefront volunteers last year. As a result of that, I also got my nonprofit organization involved in helping them with the Toy Platoon Campaign and that kept us both really busy. My house and home office practically turned into the North Pole!
For the past three years, Operation Homefront has joined forces with Dollar Tree stores around the country to accept donations from local communities for holiday toys for military kids. I jumped right on board once I found out about it and involved my organization, Coast Guard Family Organization, Inc., in the mix collecting stockings and connecting with our area’s units to distribute the stockings. Because of this, I signed up to be the regional toy distributor with Operation Homefront and my darling husband tagged right along with me.
I was blown away by the amount of toys collected. At one point, I was counting each individual toy, but that just became insane as there were thousands. Sure, some might think that donating a dollar toy is not much, but it really says a lot. In this economy, when folks are hanging on to each and every dollar, it is inspiring when they opt to give it away for the sake of a military child. Toy donations were distributed to mostly children coming from junior military families. Because of that, I was in awe when many of the folks reaching out to me and my organization to support the effort where junior military families themselves. They just thought it was right to give back. That is the incredible thing about our Nation’s military families. As many of you know, so often they/we are the ones giving so much of our time, talents and donations because it is natural to us.
The Coast Guard did a PR write up on the effort and the local newspaper also published it. All of a sudden, people started calling me and coming out of the woodwork to help. The Coast Guard Exchange donated helicopter toys, and I even had one remarkably generous lady call me up to donate cash, clothing and toys for a military family. She thought I would know best where to share her donations. I can tell you the family that did receive her donations were over the moon and so moved by her generosity. Likewise, each and every military unit my husband and I delivered toys to was more than appreciative. The Coast Guard is often left out of things and it was nice to let them know that they too are not forgotten. Can you believe, we delivered enough toys for at least 400 military families?
I will say though, that one delivery in particular more than warmed heart, and I will never forget it.
It was a Friday afternoon and I connected with a Captain at the local National Guard base. We made arrangements for the delivery of toys and my three cute little elves and I loaded ourselves up in the van amidst seven large boxes filled to the brim with stocking stuffers. We were a wee bit crowded, but managed to drive safely to the base feeling much like Santa’s sleigh.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by about six camo-clad soldiers. They were super sweet to my kids, and they amazed us all with their swift work. It never ceases to astound me how our military super heroes get the job done in a split second with efficient expedience. Before I knew it all of the boxes, carrying over 1,000 toys, were in the auditorium. The Captain thanked me for the donations and to express appreciation to all those involved. The Captain asked a bit about my organization and took my business card. All the soldiers nodded in appreciation and said thanks in unison. It was a great feeling. They sacrifice so much and they deserved these gifts for their children and so much more.
Then, one soldier leaned forwarded with his hand extended. I reached out and he held my hand tightly for quite a spell. He had a glimmer of a tear in his eye and said to me, “Thank you. This means so much.” I almost lost it right there in the auditorium. I mustered something that I still cannot even remember. I managed to maintain my composure and bid them all a Merry Christmas before I left the building.
I scrambled into my van and the tears started flowing.
At that moment, I felt like I was I in a Lifetime movie.
My oldest daughter asked me, “Mommy, what’s wrong.” I smiled and explained that I was happy and that we just did an amazing thing. I glowed the whole way back home and knew that each effort to support our military, no matter how big or small it might be, is appreciated. I had already known that; but that day, my commitment to helping military members, spouses and families was reaffirmed in a big way.
This past Christmas was the most joyous season yet for me. It was filled with moments of true happiness because it truly is better to give than receive.