During the last Operation Gift Cards visit to the Walter Reed National Military Hospital in Bethesda, Md., the five December representatives of the program met Vice President Mike Pence. He individually thanked them for their service and continued support for the wounded troops there. Among the December Operation Gift Cards representatives was Francene Duncan of Milford.

The all-volunteer group has organized the delivery of more than $1,585,060 in Post Exchange gift cards and corporate donations to the wounded troops at the Walter Reed during the 177 monthly/bimonthly visits during the past 14 1/4 years.

The program has 75 organizations or individuals who have become co-sponsors to the program by purchasing $1,000 of Post Exchange gift cards in $25 amounts, and in doing so, they qualify for the opportunity to send one representative to hand deliver their donation to the wounded troops.

Seventy-three of the co-sponsoring organizations are from Connecticut. Each representative is responsible for his or her own expenses for the two-day trip, that enables 100% of the donation of the co-sponsor to be delivered to the wounded troops. Three hundred and forty-two representatives, of the 75 co-sponsors, have participated in the two-day visit to Walter Reed. Smaller donations, of any amount, are collected until the amount reached $1,000, then Operation Gift Cards will send a wounded warrior/disabled veteran to deliver the $1,000 in gift cards.

Operation Gift Cards has received 34 awards/special recognitions for the program: 6 national, 20 statewide, 4 military, and 4 regional/local awards. The majority of the awards were presented by four of the largest national veterans organizations.

The six-part mission statement of the program:

1. To personally thank the Walter Reed patients for their service to our nation and for their sacrifice for freedom.

2. To present all visited patients with a $25 Post Exchange gift card from each of three of the co-sponsoring organizations that participate in any one of the monthly visits.

3. To inform the patients about whom they should contact concerning benefits available to them when they return to their home state.

4. To provide a means for veterans’ organizations and individuals to donate items from the “Wish List” of various support groups at Walter Reed like the Red Cross and the Fisher House.

5. To provide the opportunity for local wounded and disabled veterans to participate in a visit to Walter Reed as part of their healing process.

6. Operation Gift Cards also coordinates the participation of Walter Reed patients and alumni in local events like the Branford’s First Congregational Church’s Take A Vet Fishing Program, the Stamford Halloween Yacht Club’s Hooks For Heroes Program, and Kathy Granfield’s Veteran Angler Charters.

For more information email al.meadows@snet.net or call 203-988-2792.