On the upcoming 20th anniversary of 9/11 and its designation as a National Day of Service, Operation Gratitude welcomes grateful Americans to express their appreciation for the service and sacrifice of first responders, service members and Veterans through its digital letter writing campaign. Challenge America‘s Veteran Arts Community (CAVARTS) has created the moving visual art and poetry for this campaign.

Please take five minutes to write a letter today through the digital platform here.

We have a huge goal of 200,000 letters written through our digital platform by Sept. 12, and need your help to share with your community.

The platform is open now and will close at 11:59pm PST on Sept. 12.

Here are the two winning designs:

man holding dog tags in his hand operation gratitude digital letter campaign

Mindful, a painting by Veteran and artist Jason Turner.









This piece was completed in remembrance of the personal loss of my brother, as well as my brothers and sisters in arms and friends lost while serving during 9/11 and after. Their memories continue to flood my thoughts. I wanted to create an image that signified that. That period of my life will always weigh heavily on me. However, there’s always someone thinking about you, and they have your six.

a sonnet written by Veteran Douglas Johnson operation gratitude digital letter campaign

9/11/2021 Sonnet by Douglas W. Johnson









We disagreed, and still disagree, whether being overseas had any point. We never disagreed on whether our sacrifices, and those who went before us, had meaning.

The words we use sound so cliche, so trite, but the deeds that we try to describe are so poignant and fraught with emotion that we keep seeking ways to make the words evoke the memory of the day we beheld the heroic humans. We are not all called to greatness, but we can all live so that one day it may be said of us, “This, too, was humanity.” The heroes of 9/11 led the way for the heroes of OIF and OEF who followed.

Those who wish to view the art online may visit the Challenge America blog: www.challengeamerica.com/blog.

Please take 5 minutes to write a letter today through our digital platform here.

The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on the part of VA.

By Danielle Tenconi is the VP of Marketing & Communications for Operation Gratitude.

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Published on Sep. 7, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2 min.

Views to date: 452


  1. Art Schill September 13, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    I will never forget that day, as I watched from my window at 30 Rock and saw the towers fall. They then evacuated the building because they thought it might also be a target. As a former Korean war medic, I thought I might be able to help, so I walked to the rallying point where people were volunteering and the policeman who spoke to me said he couldn’t believe I had walked that far, but there were so many younger people volunteering that he thanked me and suggested I try to get home. Walking through the streets of NYC was eerie because this vibrant city was completely silent except for sirens and the sound of jets flying overhead. A young man of about 17, who was completely lost as to what to do, latched onto me and we made our way to the midtown tunnel and were finally able to thumb a ride to Long Island. Every September 11th I think of those moments in time. This past anniversary I was truly honored when I was asked to do some of my standup comedy at a benefit concert raising funds for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

  2. Marilyn Konopka September 11, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    Our nation is stronger and safer because of the brave men and women in our armed forces.
    daughter of a Korean War vet

  3. George, Cochran, Major, USAF (Retired) September 10, 2021 at 11:39 pm

    Having been involved in three wars and two near wars, I know somewhat of what you have been through. I also know all the efforts expended to save as many people as possible after the 911 attacks and how dangerous it was. You have my eternal gratitude for your efforts.

  4. Sylvianne Ledee-Doucette September 10, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    I am a veteran and was a first responder, so I know and understand what it takes to do this job, but seeing the response from all of you took my breathe away and brought tears to my eyes. What you all did was remarkable and beyond words. I prayed and still pray for all. You will be remembered. So very proud of each and every Firefighter, Police Officer, EMS, and other First Responders. A job well done. Thank you.

  5. James Madigan September 9, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    Having gone to war in Vietnam, i honor all Veterans.I honor them because they saw the call and they went. I don’t care if they were cooks or medics or riflemen, they went.I pray that we don’t get in a war but i would pray that there would be fellow Americans who will go. If you have gone or are going to go you all are heroes.God Bless America!

  6. Trulie Langer September 9, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    When I saw the twin towers fall my heart broke for the victims and for the people risking their lives to save as many as they could. To all who fight for our country on the front lines whether at home or abroad thank you. There will never be enough we as a people can give to thank you for our freedom and our very lives. I pray for you every day, for those in active service, for those who are home and still fighting the battles. Never Forget those who have given all and the family and friends who will always remember. God Bless You All for you are the best America has to offer!!!

  7. Tom Bailey September 9, 2021 at 11:34 am

    I was born in the Great Depression; raised during WWII; participated in ROTC during the Korean War. Started active service at the end of the Korean War; lived thru the Vietnam war; served for 20 years; retired during the Cold War. None of it was fun. I thank God and all the 9/11 vets that the Middle East war has finally ended.. Thomas W. Bailey LC USAF (Ret)

  8. Shawn Mcfadden September 9, 2021 at 9:07 am

    As a veteran of the Iraq War, I would like to take this time to acknowledge all the first responders involved on that fateful day of 9/11. Prior to me going to war, I saw weather on tv or on the Major Deegan expresway, first responders, be they NYPD, Fire Department, even the New York National Guard, these and other people, did whatever they could to save lives and protect others at the risk of their own lives. No one could have predicted what could have happened before, during and after that event occurred. NYC was forever changed because of what happened on that day, but I will forever be indebted to those who did their jobs and volunteered to help others so that I was able to do my job as a Soldier 2 years later.

  9. Floyd E. Rasmussen September 8, 2021 at 11:09 pm

    I want to thank all you young vets from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I hope as the future unfolds in your lives that you’ll
    receive a greater appreciation for what you were involved in. Those of us from the Vietnam Era want you to know how we admire you. Welcome home, and please help us make things better.

    I want to give special thanks to our First responders from my own county ,Grant ,in Eastern Oregon. I’ve personally been served on two occasions after having crashed into a tree and receiving a probable fatal TBI. Just yesterday (Sep 7) i fell backward from my walker and thankfully only received a bunch of really sore ribs ! Thankfully i had my VA provided 911 beacon. By the time they got me to the emergency room they were long gone , ready to help someone else.

    I’d also like to voice my admiration for all wildland firefighters. You’re some of the most admired people in our society.

  10. Jim Phillips September 8, 2021 at 10:10 pm

    Thank you for being a first responder. My gratitude has no bounds. I pray for your safety.

  11. Benjamin L Prouty September 8, 2021 at 7:56 pm

    I was in 6th grade coming back from recess when another student yelled out the class window that America was being attacked. I’ll never forget that day because the firefighters and police officers were doing all they could to save lives. I wanted to grow up to be like those heroes I seen on television. Eventually I did to some extent, I became a 31B and deployed to Afghanistan in 2011-2012. Thank you for your service, to all fire fighters, police and first responders. You Rock!

  12. Eloise elfand September 8, 2021 at 7:21 pm

    words cant express how sad and proud of all our veterans, we are all Americans and believe what you gave gives us our freedom and hope for the future. Eloise Elfand Navy Wave

  13. Ron Kowalski September 8, 2021 at 6:53 pm

    As a Vietnam Vet, I thank all who served in Afghanistan. Understand your pain.

Comments are closed.

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