Commander, Submarine Group Two

Kyleigh Stewart looks eagerly into one of the Operation Gratitude gift boxes
during a National Military Family Appreciation event in Groton, Conn.,
Nov. 30. Military children received gift boxes from the non-profit
organization, an effort spearheaded by USS Miami (SSN 755) Family
Readiness Group, Ombudsman and several other Miami spouses, 
to have more than 150 children of the deployed Sailors be recognized.
(U.S. Navy photograph by Lt. j.g. Kevin Shanley/RELEASED)

USS Miami Sailors' Children to Receive 'Operation Gratitude' Gift Boxes

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Military children will receive gift boxes from the non-profit organization Operation Gratitude at a local community center in Groton, Nov. 30.

USS Miami (SSN 755) Family Readiness Group President Christy Thomas, a mother of two, and several other Miami spouses have spearheaded an endeavor to have more than 150 children of the deployed Sailors be recognized during National Military Family Appreciation Month.

In addition to receiving Operation Gratitude gift boxes, Miami Ombudsman April Holtmeyer, also a mother of two, held a potluck during the scheduled event to recognize the sacrifice all of the Miami spouses and their children.

"In conjunction with the Operation Gratitude gift boxes we are also hosting a 'We are Thankful potluck dinner' for many of the wives married to Sailors serving aboard USS Miami and their children," said Holtmeyer.

Thomas and other Miami spouses first contacted the organization when the submarine deployed to inquire if the children of deployed Miami Sailors could receive gift boxes. Since the organization is accustomed to working with military personnel assigned to shore and sea units who regularly receive mail, the challenges of working with submarines whose operations prevent regular mail shipments were immense.

"When we contacted Operation Gratitude, it looked like an impossible task because their organization is set up to send boxes to the deployed Sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines and their children during the deployment," said Thomas. "They are not set up to send gift boxes to submarines."

Holtmeyer also assisted with the Operation Gratitude endeavor and was impressed with their ability to adapt.

"The organization was shocked that in a world of iPhones we go long periods of time without hearing from our service members. They stepped up to the challenge to overcome logistics to deliver their boxes to us," said Holtmeyer.

"It was quite a surreal experience to finally get a yes by the organization to help our smallest heroes feel appreciated," said Holtmeyer.

Thomas added with nearly 50 percent of the 134-member crew aboard Miami are married and have children, the support for their loved ones give new meaning for the deployed fathers.

"The kids are the heroes in their dads' eyes because they have thrived in their daily lives while they have been gone," said Thomas.

Holtmeyer said the gift boxes donated by Operation Gratitude and the potluck is just one example of the tight bonds the wives have formed through the deployments.

"We are a family. Often we don't have family that is close by," said Thomas. "We help each other out, and while I don't have any sisters, these other wives are like the sisters I never had."

According to their website, Operation Gratitude sends 100,000 care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. service members deployed and to their children left behind as well as Wounded Warriors recuperating in transition units.