Operation Gratitude Twin 500,000th Packages Delivered 2 Paratroopers in Afghanistan Receive Keys to Harley Bikes

Operation Gratitude Twin 500,000th Packages Delivered

2 Paratroopers in Afghanistan Receive Keys to Harley Bikes

Based on reporting by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Susan Wilt

Combined Joint Task Force-82 Public Affairs

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Two deployed 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers got a nice surprise when they opened up boxes from Operation Gratitude and each found a set of keys to a new motorcycle in his care package.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. William Fullerton, a squad leader with Company B, 82nd Division Special Troops Battalion, and U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Herne, an infantryman with Company A, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, were lucky recipients of the Operation Gratitude Milestone 500,000th Twin Care Packages shipped on December 19, 2009.  A new Harley Davidson Sportster motorcycle will be waiting for each Paratrooper upon his redeployment from Afghanistan.

"I'm still in shock from winning, so I'm a little lost for words. It's the coolest thing I've received in my life," said Herne, a native of Addison, N.Y.

Fullerton, a native of Quincy, Mass., was happy because his wife likes motorcycles, so it will be a nice treat for her.

The Paratroopers weren't the only ones glad they'd received Harley's, their leadership was pleased to see their Paratroopers get such a generous care package.

"Sergeant Herne is a very dedicated soldier," said 1st Sgt. Michael Black, Herne's company first sergeant.  "When asked to perform a task he goes above and beyond his duty and always gives 110 percent. All the other Paratroopers look up to him for guidance and mentorship. The day he came off of leave he volunteered to go on mission. That is the type of Paratrooper Sgt. Herne is."

Fullerton's first sergeant echoed similar sentiments.

"He's one of my strongest (noncomissioned officers), an outstanding leader, very deserving of the motorcycle," said 1st Sgt. John S. Woodson, a Charleston, W. Va., native and Fullerton's first sergeant at Co. B.

Not only was Woodson happy that Fullerton won a motorcycle, but he also thought the gesture showed there was a lot of outside support for Servicemembers who are deployed. The Milestone 500,000th packages were sent by Operation Gratitude along with 1,800 additional care packages personally addressed to Soldiers of the Task Force.

The two motorcycles were purchased by Mr. Don Allen, the CEO of American Veteran Traveling Tribute and Mr. Lee Rawcliffe, the CEO and owner of Sands Resorts, as a way of rewarding two Soldiers for all their service.

"Mr. Allen and Mr. Rawcliffe wanted to show their appreciation by asking Operation Gratitude to randomly select two Soldiers to receive their gift," said retired Army Col. Melinda S. Woodhurst, the director of operations for AVTT.

"Staff Sgt. Fullerton and Sgt. Herne are wonderful representatives of the U.S. Military and we are delighted that they received the Milestone 500,000th Care Packages," said Carolyn Blashek, founder of Operation Gratitude.   "The volunteers and supporters of Operation Gratitude are also honored to send expressions of respect and appreciation to all of our heroic warriors on the front lines of freedom."

As far as future plans go for the most recent recipient of the motorcycle, when Herne redeploys from Afghanistan he's looking forward to learning how to actually ride a motorcycle.

"I've ridden a lot of dirt bikes, so it should be the same," said Herne, who ironically was saving his money to buy a motorcycle when he returned from Afghanist