Operation Caregiver™ (OC) is a nationwide program operated under the
Victory Fund of the
Guys© (an IRS tax exempt 501-(c)-3 public charity)
to supply relief to our troops at the "tip-of-the-spear".
These warriors (our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and
spouses) live in the most primitive conditions. They live in foxholes, tents, Humvees or some
unoccupied local structures without heating or air
conditioning with temperatures ranging from sub-0° in the winter to 128° Fahrenheit in
the summer. The dust storms are Biblical in scale. There are no fixed base
facilities with creature comforts (no PX, no chow halls, no running
water (no showers or sinks or flush toilets), no electricity), nor access to
the mobile PX services.
They may go months without a shower, a hot meal and they may run out
of the basics of hygiene before re-supply is possible. It is truly a Spartan
had its humble beginnings in 2004 when a
friend of mine was
to Iraq with a USMC rifle company. I decided that I wanted to do something to support
the troops. I wrote him and asked if there was anything I
could send to make his
a bit less Spartan. My friend emailed back that he would
love some home-baked cookies. He added that, if possible, he’d like enough
for 250 men! That
request is not surprising for a senior NCO; they routinely put the
welfare of the troops before their own.
I quickly realized that home-baked cookies for 250 would take
more than just my oven to supply in a reasonable period of time. I
spread the word where I live in Scripps Ranch in San Diego and my friends, neighbors
and total strangers began dropping off home-baked cookies at my
house to the point that it looked like a Keebler® elf tree in my family room
inside of a week.
My kids and
I packed it
all up, along with letters of encouragement from
donors, local Scouts and neighborhood school children, and we shipped it all to Iraq. I
was told that the troops just loved
A few months passed. I asked my friend if he
needed something else. He responded that he could use some more
cookies, but if I could also get powdered drink mix, baby wipes (to
bathe!) and Gold Bond powder that would be really appreciated. Again, if I
could get enough for just (!) 250 men that would be great. This request
was now clearly beyond my means. Once again, the call went out to
everyone I could think of and the patriots in my
neighborhood in Scripps. Once again, they all responded very generously. My kids and I
packed and shipped it all to Iraq.
request was for a list of a dozen items of comfort and hygiene (now
at 15 items) that could
not be had where he was in Iraq (it sounded like the 5th level of Dante's, "Inferno"). I knew I
would need to take this project to a bigger audience to have any hope of
fulfilling this request.
I dubbed this
support effort “Operation Caregiver”© and the requested dozen items a “Caregiver Kit”©
and inertia has given it a life of its own. My associates at
work, my social contacts, my family, friends and neighbors all
rallied and we raised money and accepted material donations as well.
We went shopping at the PX and even the crew there worked miracles
with the vendors to get price breaks on the Kit's items.
This first really big
shipment was done in a restaurant dining room after a meeting of a local Irish men’s group.
Since then, it had been done in my great room with a hoard of volunteers
eating my wife’s home cooking. Now we use the local Reserve Center
because of the size of the shipments.
I thought I was
through after my buddy finally came home from his second deployment to "the
sandbox". Two things happened to change my mind.
First off, I went to a Homecoming for the Third Battalion of the
First Marine Division. While there, I went to use the head (toilet)
in the barracks. There on a dry-erase board was written, "The
Marine Corps is at war. America is still at the mall." I stared
in disbelief at what I'd just read.
It struck me that this young Marine was communicating to anyone who
would listen his belief that the Nation was oblivious to his service
and that of his comrades, and even to the war itself. I was inspired
by his blunt message to continue the meager efforts I had begun. I
wanted to let this Marine, and any others I could reach, know
that his fellow Americans do indeed know he is there and about the
sacrifices he is making and, most importantly, that we do
care and will support you. This Marine's simple message at first
just inspired me to continue OC. Now it motivates me to stay engaged
for as long as there are troops in harm's way.
The second fact that made me want to continue in
this effort was that this little charity was apparently successful.
We had donors who wanted to support us. The word about OC's Kits had
now spread to other units and these units were asking for the same support.
We had donors and we had recipients. I took it as a sign that we
should continue the effort until we ran short of either the former
or the latter (preferred).
roots effort has been blessed in so many ways. Each time we faced an
obstacle, the Lord provided in ways I could not have imagined. Six years
later, we now have:
Wal-Mart workers devoted to finding us great deals on the items.
businesses that donates all the packing supplies.
an army of volunteers who help sort
materials and pack
all the Kits.
USN-USMC Reserve Center that let's us pack the large shipments
Middle School writing letters of encouragement that we place in each cookie box.
transport of the materials before & after packing by
volunteer local USMC
local USPO workers who help
us get this shipment done at the lowest cost.
umbrella 501 (c) 3 charity that lets us accept tax-deductible donations.
all the necessary whatever and all the
done by the OC clerk (me).
"We are deployed to the Al Anbar Province in Iraq, and have
the city of Ar Ramadi as our AO. We recently suffered a
loss and after the memorial, SgtMaj G. passed some of your care packages onto me so I could
give them to the Marines of the platoon that lost their
brother. I took the care packages out to the Marines and
told them the gifts were from a former Marine who still
believes in what we are doing. The items that you provided
sir were given out by the platoon sergeant and were
definitely appreciated. While the material items don’t last
long, the thought of someone like yourself providing for us
out here will last the deployment. It never ceases to amaze
me how much support today’s military receives from the
1stSgt S. L. M.
Wpns Co 1/9
corporations and community groups have responded favorably to requests for support and the list
seems to be growing daily. In response to a recent interested donor's request for
(we did not have one) two
friends stepped forward to offer their services to create and maintain
a website for Operation Caregiver©.
Why am I
telling you all this? Simple. I want you to know that every cent you give
to this cause will be used to send more Caregiver Kits© to the
war zone. There is no office staff, no one is on salary;
simply put, there is NO overhead . You will receive a personal thank you
letter and a tax
receipt from me for your donation.
importantly, you may even
hear from a young American halfway around the world thanking you for
and the Kit. You see, it really matters to them when they get something from
home from a total stranger; more so if it is
filled with stuff they really need. It let's them
know that some average American knows they are there and cares enough to
send a little "comfort for those in harm's way." It stiffens
their resolve in the midst of it all.
that fact alone makes all this effort worth all it takes. I hope you agree.
Please keep Faith with this effort and send whatever support you can
afford. We can't keep doing it without your commitment
(Michael G. LaMar, MD, USN-Ret.)