Operation Troop Appreciation (OTA) Celebrates 15 Years of Service to America’s Troops and Veterans

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OTA is ranked among the 10 top-rated veteran nonprofits by Military.com

“Because of the shipment of GPS devices, OTA helped save our lives many times” said retired U.S. Army Sergeant Brian Sgro. "We were able to calculate the exact grid where the bomb would hit within seconds.”

As America prepares to celebrate Veterans Day on November 11, this year’s holiday holds special significance for one of the country’s most successful military charities. It was 15 years ago when a small group of volunteers mobilized to form a nonprofit called Operation Troop Appreciation (OTA) as a way to show their appreciation for the brave men and women who serve our country.

Today, OTA has expanded into a national network that has raised over $2 million in contributions and has served more than 175,000 members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, as well as troops who serve in active duty National Guard and U.S. Reserve units.

OTA has achieved such phenomenal growth that it is now ranked among the 10 top-rated veteran nonprofits by Military.com as one of the most respected and reputable veteran nonprofits. OTA is a 100% volunteer organization, with 90% of donations going directly to the troops.

Monica Orluk—CEO and executive director of OTA—said the organization’s 15-year anniversary demonstrates the strong affection Americans have for their veterans and troops.

“When we started OTA in 2004, we were looking for a way to brighten the spirits of U.S. troops who were fighting in the Iraq War and other hot spots in the Middle East,” said Orluk. “Several volunteers began sending Under Armour® T-shirts to the soldiers. To our amazement, OTA blossomed into an organization that now includes private individuals, small businesses and corporate sponsors who provide financial support, participate in collection drives and help organize special events. It’s heartwarming to see how many people have rallied behind our troops.”

One of OTA’s most successful initiatives is its Active Duty Military Support Project. Modeled after charities such as Make-A-Wish, this program gives troops an opportunity to submit wish lists and ask for items that help contribute to their health, welfare and morale.

“Many of our troops live on remote outposts with limited access to supplies,” explained Orluk. “We have identified areas of need and provide items that help supplement government and military-issued supplies.”

Through the Active Duty Military Support Project, troops receive items such as tactical gear, blankets, socks, T-shirts, space heaters, newspapers, sports and fitness equipment, video gaming, computers, musical instruments, phone cards, snacks and personal hygiene supplies.

In addition, OTA has worked on a special project with directors of education at U.S. Army bases in Afghanistan to provide troops with test study guides.

“These study guides have helped the troops improve their chances for promotion, build skills for other military job opportunities or prepare for further education outside the military,” said Orluk. “It’s been a win-win program that benefits both the military and our troops.”

OTA also provides troops with equipment that helps them to stay safe in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones.

“OTA helped to save our lives many times,” said retired U.S. Army Sergeant Brian Sgro, who was deployed to Afghanistan for a combat mission from 2010 through 2014. “We were serving in an area that wasn’t completely mapped so we would often get lost when returning from long missions. It was easy to end up in enemy territory without the assurance that we’d be able to return safely. Thanks to a shipment of GPS devices that OTA sent to my unit, we were able to calculate the exact grid where the bomb would hit within seconds.”

In honor of its achievements, OTA has been named a “Top-Rated Charity” by Great Non Profits for eight consecutive years and received the “Organizational Tribute Award” from the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania. OTA was also inducted into the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas, Texas.

Orluk credits OTA’s volunteers for helping the organization to thrive and expand its initiatives.

“Some of our volunteers come to pack boxes; some engage in fundraising activities on their own; some work as ambassadors in our headquarters and around the community,” said Orluk. “Still others stock shelves, shop, write letters and take care of administrative tasks. Whatever task they complete, each piece is critical to our mission. These individuals sacrifice their time and energy to help us carry out our programs. That’s a testament to their love for our country.”

Individuals, groups and companies that wish to support OTA’s program for troops and veterans can visit https://operationtroopappreciation.org.

Orluk said that there are many ways that Americans can show their appreciation for U.S. servicemen and servicewomen this coming Veterans Day.

“A great way to show our troops how much you care is by supporting a military charity,” said Orluk. “You can also attend a Veterans Day parade, fly the U.S. flag, send a postcard to one of our troops or visit a VA hospital. The most important thing is to just tell a veteran or troop how much you appreciate their service. It will mean a lot to them.”

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Monica Orluk

Sharon Liotus
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