National Coalition to Support COVID-19 Frontline Responders

Companies Join Forces to Positively Impact 300,000 National Guard, First Responders and Healthcare Heroes

Today, Operation Gratitude announced the launch of one of the largest coordinated efforts in the country to support the brave men and women on the frontlines of the Coronavirus pandemic. Companies across all industries are joining together to form the Coalition to Support COVID-19 Frontline Responders to leverage their collective resources and capabilities and provide direct support to hundreds of thousands of Frontline Responders nationwide. 

Over the past two weeks, Operation Gratitude has delivered 60,000 individual items to Los Angeles Police and Fire Departments and 450 National Guardsmen in southern California, as well as 30,000 individual items and 1,000+ handwritten letters to the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington D.C. Bulk deliveries are scheduled this week at dozens of hospitals in NYC and Seattle and metropolitan police and fire departments in areas particularly impacted by the pandemic.

Operations will scale up exponentially with generous support from CSX, Liquid IV, Mars Wrigley, Prudential Financial, Starbucks and The Starbucks Foundation and Veterans United Home Loans.

The Coalition will be co-chaired by retired Lieutenant General Kathleen Gainey, who served as the Deputy Commander, U.S. Transportation Command and brings over 35-years of extensive logistics and transportation experience in the military and in collaboration with the private sector; and Robert Lackman, the former COO of The Gorilla Glue Company and a Navy veteran, who brings 25-years of supply chain and distribution expertise.

Together the Coalition has pledged to support COVID-19 Frontline Responders by:

  • Raising $1.5 million in financial donations to fund bulk deliveries of 5 million items to 400 hospitals, police and fire departments, National Guard units and other Military response forces that are currently deployed or about to deploy.
  • Making in-kind donations of essential items, valued at $5 million, to support 300,000 frontline responders at hospitals, major metropolitan police and fire departments and deployed National Guard units over the next 10 weeks.
  • Mobilizing dedicated and grateful employees and their families through #VirtualVolunteerism with a focus on writing letters of gratitude to military, first responders and healthcare heroes.
  • Providing in-kind resources, to include critical transportation and logistics support and other professional services to ensure an agile and responsive operation

“As we have all seen recently, the world can turn upside down in a matter of days. One thing that we can always count on during a crisis is our military and first responders on the frontlines,” said the CEO of Operation Gratitude, retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Schmiegel. “While they continue to serve, we will continue to support them with the help of this coalition. Together, we will deliver millions of critically needed items and letters of appreciation globally to the Frontline First Responders who need it most.”

Officers from Los Angeles Police Department unloading supplies

In addition to engaging their employee’s enterprise-wide to write letters of appreciation for Frontline Responders, the founding members of the Coalition to Support COVID-19 Frontline Responders have also committed the following resources:

  • CSX – Financial support to enable bulk deliveries to 100,000 Frontline Responders allocated as part of their existing Pride In Service initiative and in direct support of tens of thousands of Military and First Responders in states and cities that the initiative has impacted since its launch in 2018.
  • Starbucks and The Starbucks FoundationFinancial support from The Starbucks Foundation to enable bulk deliveries to 50,000 Frontline Responders; in-kind product support from Starbucks including 50,000 lbs of Starbucks Coffee and a letter-writing campaign for Frontline Responders.
  • Veterans United Home Loans – Financial support to enable deliveries to 50,000 National Guardsmen, Deployed Troops and other Frontline Responders; in-kind product and services support including 50,000 drawstring bags for Frontline Responders; creation of a virtual letter writing platform, allowing others to show their support through #VirtualVolunteerism.
  • Prudential Financial – Financial support to enable bulk deliveries to 20,000 Frontline Responders and enterprise wide letter-writing. 
  • Liquid IV – Financial support to enable bulk deliveries to 5,000 Frontline Responders, and an in-kind donation of 312,000 hydration drink servings for every Frontline Responder impacted by the Coalition. 
  • Mars Wrigley – In-kind product donation of up to 1 million individual items, cause marketing campaigns, virtual letter-writing and funded drop shipments to locations most in need.

Since 2003, millions of Americans have volunteered in a tangible way with Operation Gratitude, both in their communities and from their own homes, helping us to fill and deliver 2.6 million care packages. 17 years after the invasion of Iraq started and Operation Gratitude was born, our nation is again under attack on the homeland – this time by an invisible enemy. The grassroots movement that started with the first four care packages will grow at a time of great challenge for our nation and lead to a groundswell of appreciation for those serving on the frontlines of this pandemic.

Strong Committed Relationships Can Buffer Military Suicides

Can being in a strong committed relationship reduce the risk of suicide? Researchers at Michigan State University believe so, especially among members of the National Guard.

Suicide rates for members of the military are disproportionally higher than for civilians, and around the holidays the number of reported suicides often increases, for service members and civilians alike. What’s more alarming is the risk of suicide among National Guard and reserve members is even greater than the risk among active duty members.

When returning from a deployment, National Guard members in particular are expected to immediately jump back into their civilian lives, which many find difficult to do, especially after combat missions. Some suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or high anxiety in the months following their return. These mental health conditions are considered at-risk symptoms for higher rates of suicide.

The researchers wanted to know what factors can buffer suicide risk, specifically the role that a strong intimate relationship plays. They discovered that when the severity of mental health symptoms increase, better relationship satisfaction reduces the risk of suicide.

“A strong relationship provides a critical sense of belonging and motivation for living – the stronger a relationship, the more of a buffer it affords to prevent suicides,” said Adrian Blow, family studies professor, and lead author. “If the relationship is satisfying and going well, the lower the risk. National Guard members don’t typically have the same type of support system full-time soldiers receive upon returning home, so it’s important that the family and relationships they return to are as satisfying and strong as possible.”

The researchers surveyed 712 National Guard members who lived in Michigan, had been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan between 2010-2013 and reported being in a committed relationship. The study measured three main variables – mental health symptoms, suicide risk and relationship satisfaction – each on a separate ranking scale. The soldiers were asked questions such as how enjoyable the relationship is, if they ever thought about or attempted suicide, how often they have been bothered by symptoms of depressive disorder, etc.

Results showed significant associations between each of the mental health variables (PTSD, depression and anxiety) and suicide risk, indicating that higher symptoms were predictive of greater risk.

However, once couple satisfaction and its interaction with mental health was factored in, the association between mental health symptoms and suicide risk was changed. Specifically, for those with higher couple satisfaction, the increased symptoms of PTSD, depression and anxiety were no longer a risk for suicide.

“Our findings show that more needs to be done to enhance the quality of relationships to improve the satisfaction level and through this decrease the suicide risk,” Blow said. “Having a partner who understands your symptoms may help the service member feel understood and valued. There are family support programs available, but we need to do more to enhance relationships post deployment. Relationships do not get enough consideration in the role they play in preventing military suicides, and I would love to see more attention devoted to this issue.”

Other co-authors included Adam Farero from MSU; Heather Walters and Marcia Valenstein from University of Michigan; and Dara Ganoczy from the Veterans Health Administration. The study was funded by the Veterans Administration. The study was published in the official journal of the American Association of Suicidology.

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