“This is an extraordinary day in the life of Operation Gratitude,” said Penny Alfonso, Volunteer and Community Service Coordinator, in a press release. “I was at the very first Assembly Day in 2003 and it is breathtaking to witness this accomplishment by caring and patriotic Americans all across the country, whose goal is to say ‘Thank You’ to our Military.”
The backdrop to the entire event was the elegant and moving replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, presented by American Veterans Traveling Tribute. A special memorial program in front of The Wall opened with a rousing rendition of the National Anthem by the St. Francis de Sales Choir, and an inspirational invocation by Captain Brenda Threatt, a chaplain with the California State Military Reserve. Veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, joined Gold and Blue Star Mothers and War Dog, Cpl. Breezy, USMC (Ret.) to lay wreaths in honor of the Fallen.
In poignant remarks, The Adjutant General of California, Major General David Baldwin and John Barron, COO of American Veterans Traveling Tribute spoke of the sacrifices made by our Military and their families. Also in attendance representing their respective branches were Vice Admiral David Buss, Commander, Naval Air Forces, Brigadier General Vincent Coglianese, Commanding General, 1st Marine Logistics Group (1st MLG); and Command Sergeant Major William Clarke, the Senior Enlisted Soldier in California.
Steve Politis, a 96 year old B-17 fighter pilot who was shot down over Yugoslavia in World War II, was visibly moved by the outpouring of respect for America’s Veterans.
“I think about the many Operation Gratitude volunteer ‘hands’ that have touched these one million care packages – either by assembling the boxes or making one of the items inside,” he said. “There is no more beautiful way to express appreciation and let our Military know that people care.”