Jeep Puts Group in Driver’s Seat to Mark Milestone

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2007 – Jeep is partnering with the New York Mets major league baseball team, a New York television station and New York auto dealers associations to help put both a U.S. servicemember and a support-letter writer each behind the wheel of a new vehicle.

During a Military Appreciation Day pre-game ceremony at Shea Stadium in Queens, N.Y., yesterday, a Tri-State Jeep Dealers Association representative presented Operation Gratitude with symbolic keys to a 2007 Jeep Patriot Limited.

The “keys” went directly into the troop-support group’s 250,000th care package. And the Jeep, donated by the carmaker in celebration of the group’s milestone, will be driven home by a lucky servicemember upon his or her return to the states.

Operation Gratitude is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

“We are proud and humbled to contribute to a great organization like Operation Gratitude that does so much good in support of our troops,” said Eric Neilsen, president of the New York Dealer Association. “The Jeep was originally developed to serve our military, and we are very pleased to be able to continue this tradition in a small way.”

A U.S. Postal Service representative was on hand to make sure the special package made it safely to the military post office at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Carolyn Blashek, Operation Gratitude’s founder, said.

“The package is very much on its way,” she added. “It left on the 5 p.m. flight last night out of Newark (N.J.) flying next to the pilot the whole way.”

In further support of Operation Gratitude's mission to express the American public’s appreciation, New York’s CW11/WPIX television station, a part of Tribune Broadcasting, the New York Mets baseball team, and Jeep launched a letter-writing campaign that kicked off yesterday.

The campaign will run through Sept. 17, when one lucky writer’s letter will be randomly chosen and sent to Operation Gratitude's 250,000th package recipient. The package recipient and the winning letter-writer both will be announced during a Sept. 30 pre-game ceremony at Shea Stadium in Queens, N.Y., Blashek said.

Though that winning letter will undoubtedly make the servicemember smile, it should also please the letter writer. He or she also will drive home a 2007 Jeep Patriot Limited.

Letters can be submitted through the CW11/WPIX Web site. Each letter received through the site will serve as a contest entry, Blashek said.

During yesterday’s military appreciation event at Shea Stadium, fans also donated “cartons and cartons of items” to Operation Gratitude. The donations, including phone cards, DVDs, CDs, Beanie Babies, disposable cameras, batteries, baseball caps, and lip balm, will find their way into more care packages that will end up in troops’ hands.

“Fan outpouring was great,” Blashek said. “We collected cartons and cartons of items, and the letters are already flowing into the Web site.”

(From Operation Gratitude and New York Mets news releases.)

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