Operation Heal Our Patriots Families Give Back by Packing Shoeboxes

October 4, 2017 • United States

Wounded veterans gather to fill 99 Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.

Just as they’ve already sacrificed much for our country’s freedoms, many Operation Heal Our Patriots participants remain committed to a life of service and giving. Couples involved with the Samaritan’s Purse project count at least one spouse wounded in combat after 9/11, and all have participated in a week of Bible-based marriage enrichment in Alaska. Many continue to get together after their time in Alaska, supporting one another and also serving together.

Get Involved with Operation Christmas Child

A group of families connected by Operation Heal Our Patriots united to host an Operation Christmas Child packing party on Saturday, Sept. 23, in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

In the course of two hours, 30 adults and children from the Coastal Carolina regional group packed 99 shoebox gifts full of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for children in need around the world.

“God knows where each one is going to go,” said Tristan Brown, an army sergeant wounded in combat in Afghanistan. “I hope it blesses them and brings them a little bit of Christmas, but even more than that shows them God’s love.”

“I hope the shoebox gift shows them God’s love.”

Erica Teal, whose husband Michael served in the Marines, brought her four children and as well as one of their friends to pack shoebox gifts for the first time. Thinking of the recipients, Erica said, “I hope they come to know Christ and know that they are loved no matter what.”

A Renewed Faith

Matthew and Angel Bass spent a week in Alaska through Operation Heal Our Patriots in August of this year. They came out to pack shoeboxes with two of their five sons: Logan and Preston.

Matthew, a master sergeant in the Marines, suffers from traumatic brain injury after a combat deployment to Iraq in 2006.

Matthew and Angel Bass and their sons, Logan, 10, and Preston, 3, brought items to pack shoeboxes for children in need.

Matthew and Angel Bass and their sons, Logan and Preston, brought items to pack shoeboxes for children in need.

Matthew and Angle married during one of his two-week breaks four years ago. The couple had not had even a date night away from their five kids and live-in grandson before they arrived at Samaritan Lodge Alaska this summer. Angel said the week was “amazing and life-changing.”

“We always believed and talked about God,” she said, “but we missed making it a priority.”

Matthew agreed: “It renewed my faith. It was like a campfire—I still had a nice foundation of coals but it just wasn’t burning the way it should have been.”

Since coming home, they started going to church and began hosting a community group in their home for support and encouragement in the Word of God during the week.

“Operation Heal Our Patriots has given me a new life perspective and saved our marriage,” Matthew said.

Marriage Strengthened

Oscar and Nichol Fuentes came to pack their first shoebox gifts with their three children: Miguel, Gabi, and Alonzo. Oscar, a Marine sergeant, just returned from a deployment to Iraq six weeks ago, so the family was especially happy to be together.

Nichol Fuentes packs shoeboxes with her son, Alonzo, and daughter Gabi.

Nichol Fuentes packs shoeboxes with her son, Alonzo, and daughter Gabi.

Nichol also served in the Marines until she was medically retired due to a shattered ankle and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). About a decade ago, the couple actually deployed to Iraq at the same time, and Nichol watched in horror as Oscar’s housing unit once took enemy fire and exploded.

During their joint deployment they had to leave their oldest son, Miguel—then only six months old—with grandparents. They missed a year of his life, including seeing his first steps.

Angry at first over being medically retired, Nichol now sees it as a blessing. “Now I have time to be a mom,” she said.

For Oscar and Nichol, going to Operation Heal Our Patriots in Alaska in August 2016 “solidified” their marriage.

“You could never have gotten us in a church before,” Nichol said, but now they are active in a local congregation. “I’m still on my path of finding God,” she added.

Community and Friendly Competition

“Their identity was military before they were medically retired,” said Pat Fleming, aftercare manager for Operation Heal Our Patriots. “The change in status causes them to leave the only family they’ve known for years.”

trophy which goes to the Operation Heal Our Patriots region that packs the most shoebox gifts.

Pat Fleming, aftercare manager, and two military kids show off the golden shoebox trophy which goes to the Operation Heal Our Patriots region that packs the most shoebox gifts.

Through events like this, Samaritan’s Purse seeks to help disabled veterans create a new community for mutual support and encouragement.

With that community comes some healthy competition. The 99 shoebox gifts completed in Jacksonville pose a challenge to the Central Texas Operation Heal Our Patriots regional group.

If they can exceed that total at their packing party on October 14, they will receive the “golden shoebox.”

Made out of wood and covered in glittery gold paint and Operation Christmas Child logos, this trophy will rotate to the Operation Heal Our Patriots aftercare region that packs the most shoebox gifts each year.

Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, delivers gift-filled shoeboxes to children in need in more than 100 countries around the globe.

You can be a part of this exciting international evangelistic outreach by prayerfully packing a gift-filled shoebox! Learn how to pack a shoebox. You can also volunteer at a processing center.