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Operation G.I. Jingle: “Sending Them Home” for the Holidays
This Christmas, there’s a new kind of care package going out to the U.S. Military. Although they can’t eat, wear, or stow the contents of this package in their mess kits, it’s a little reminder of home that our troops can take along with them wherever they go. It’s called Operation G.I. Jingle and it’s a special way for military moms and dads to “visit” with family members back home this holiday season.
Operation G.I. Jingle is an effort to harness the internet’s outreaching potential and use it for the betterment of society; specifically, for those serving in the U.S. Military. It is the collaborative attempt of Lori Anne Wardi, Lisa Steinke and Mark Shilensky, co-owners of Dream Big Media, Inc., to put innovation to work in the practical world and thus make a positive impact.
Operation G.I. Jingle is, quite simply, a way for military parents stationed abroad to contact their children back home via the internet using Santa Claus as their medium. With www.jinglegram.com’s “Jinglegram Greeting” as a carriage of transport, military parents can send a pre-recorded video of Santa speaking directly to their little ones, along with a Letter from Santa that parents will be able to fill with their personal message of love, hope and reassurance.
In all honesty, the Jinglegram Greeting was not created for the sole purpose of being used by the U.S. Military although it does fit the bill perfectly. It was generally intended as a way to use streaming video technology to bring people closer together. It was meant to bring Santa Claus alive on the net... not just Santa as the timeless icon he is, but the spirit of generosity and goodwill that lives on through his legacy and keeps his image alive generation after generation. But as it turns out, not only is the Jinglegram Greeting’s message and the spirit in which it’s sent totally relevant to our situation overseas, but nearly half of the professional Santa Clauses working for the website have served in the military at one time or another. And that’s what brings this cause to life for them.
Jinglegram.com’s basic stance on the “controversial” military issue is such: it doesn’t matter your political preference, your take on international issues or your feeling about what’s going on in Iraq right now. The fact remains that there are people who have put aside personal commitments and devoted their lives to defending our country and its governing principles. There are American citizens enduring harsh conditions abroad in unfamiliar territory, strong and courageous souls who no longer take for granted the freedoms bestowed upon them. There are families living day to day in the U.S., feeling the absence of their loved ones who fight for this noble cause, and praying for their eventual safe return. There are children who are temporarily parentless and although they may be in caring hands, they are feeling something that no child should ever have to feel: the uncertainty of their mom or dad’s whereabouts, well-being and safety.
Lori Anne Wardi, founder and CEO of Dream Big Media and co-creator of the Jinglegram Greeting as it’s featured on www.jinglegram.com, has this to say about her humanitarian effort:
“To me there is no audience more aptly fitting – and deserving – of this gift that will connect minds and hearts and souls. While the inception of the Jinglegram Greeting into our business plan was merely coincidental with what’s happening on the political front of our country, the timing couldn’t be more dead-on. The power of this new communication tool is incredible; if we didn’t use it we’d be throwing away a God-given chance to restore comfort to young hearts. If we can carry through with our plan to offer this unique and momentous Christmas gift to the military, we’ll be exercising the very freedom they defend.”
This being said, it’s the goal of Dream Big Media to offer as many free Jinglegram Greetings to military parents stationed overseas as possible. With Christmas just around the corner, the modest-in-size but mighty-in-spirit Dream Big team of roughly forty people is working around the clock from remote locations in a full-on effort to uncover viable distribution channels for their Operation G.I. Jingle undertaking. Budget and time limitations force them to rely heavily on aggressive networking and viral marketing techniques to spread the good word of Santa’s arrival online. Despite these constraints, Operation G.I. Jingle is well on the way to making a difference for military tots across the country, bringing smiles across the miles and helping holiday hearts be light in the face of difficult times.
There is one Dream Big Media contributor for whom Operation G.I. Jingle hits particularly close to home: Lori Davis, recruiter and manager of Dream Big’s elite force of Desktop Santa performers. In addition to growing up the daughter of a Marine and with all three brothers in the U.S. Army, Lori herself was enlisted from 1984 to 1987. While she was never stationed overseas (she worked at the Pentagon for her entire 3-year enlistment), most of Lori Davis’s military friends were often placed in dangerous locations.
According to Lori, “I watched my friends, and their families, cope with being separated. Long letters, care packages and photos from home are all part of the military lifestyle. It’s about community and the sense of ‘we’re in this together.’ Some of my fondest memories are of my brothers calling me collect from overseas... just hearing their voices, listening to their fears and concerns, KNOWING my brothers were OKAY. It’s gut-wrenching to NOT hear from the people you love. Things go through your mind: are they safe? Are they eating properly and taking care of themselves? Makes me cry, thinking about these memories.”
As Lori expresses, life for a military family can be tough. Separations can go on for long periods of time; special moments like birthdays, anniversaries, and baby’s first steps, are missed. For our fighting men and women currently assigned to Iraq and Afghanistan, we simply cannot fathom what their families are going through. Nightly new showing bombings and guns... family members trying to explain why Mommy and/or Daddy are away. Baby sisters worrying about their big brothers.
As a result of her experience, Lori Davis has thrown her heart and soul into this effort, and she puts it best when she says: “ANYTHING we can do to support our troops is beautiful, and having Santa send a message of hope and love is a good place to start! Santa is an international symbol of all that’s good in the world... and if you let him, he’ll take away the troubles that worry your mind. I am very proud to be part of a company that has the military family in mind. I like knowing that children from around the world can send a G.I. Jingle at no expense to them or their mommy or daddy. I love knowing that the recipient will giggle out loud when Santa shows up on the screen. But more importantly, I love knowing that for the few minutes they take to read that letter from their loved ones, they can think of something happy and wonderful—their family.”
Will Dream Big Media’s care package be broadly and well-received? As sure as year after year, decade after decade, Santa’s sleigh flies to the homes of good little boys and girls on Christmas Eve. As sure as eyes grow big as saucers and young hearts fill with joy at the sight of that great, jolly man on the screen letting them know that everything’s going to be all right. As sure as military moms and dads can sleep more soundly, knowing they found a way to reach out to the people who mean most to them, and as sure as little Believers keep the faith... Operation G.I. Jingle will change the face of internet communication as we know it and give thousands of U.S. Military members a chance to “go home” this Christmas even if just for a brief moment. And there’s no better Christmas care package than that.
This article was posted on December 10, 2004