Urijah Faber and Torque Sports & Performance kick the tires and light the fires for Operation Gratitude.
UFC featherweight Urijah Faber leaned into it. His opponent resisted briefly, then yielded—a feeling the former WEC Champion was used to imposing on objects in his way. This time, however, the object in question wasn’t a vicious MMA fighter, but a 600-pound custom chopper, donated to one lucky soldier by Operation Gratitude in partnership with SJO Foundation for Hope and Torque Sports & Performance. The bike rolled to a stop. Around it were the soldiers and volunteers who were gathered to assemble their 900,000th care package and deliver the bike to its new owner, Spc. Samuel Mancilla.
Spc. Mancilla is a motor transport operator who was assigned to the 1072nd Transportation Company, 378th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade in Afghanistan. In August 2012, he was the recipient of the 800,000th care package, which included a portable DVD player, a digital camera, a web cam, a week-long vacation donated by long-time Operation Gratitude volunteer Shirley Landau, and, of course, the keys to a custom-built OCC motorcycle. He returned home from duty and was on hand December 15 for the unveiling of his custom motorcycle.
The custom “American Chopper” motorcycle has a Rolling Thunder frame, S&S 100ci polished EPA engine, a custom Torque paint job, and a primary cover with five authentic U.S. military coins (representing the 5 military branches) embedded on it with designs that pay tribute to the five branches of the U.S. military as well as Operation Gratitude volunteers.
On hand were more than 2,000 volunteers and military personnel, the California National Guard Brass, and celebrities such as Eric Estrada, Joe Mantegna, and John Cryer, as well as a handful of Playboy playmates and mixed martial artist Urijah Faber.
“The entire day at Operation Gratitude was a very humbling experience for us all,” says Scott Templeton, Managing Partner at Torque Sports & Performance. “Patriotism is alive and well in the U.S. One moment that stuck out was when Mr. Mike Reagan, the son of former President Ronald Reagan, wrapped up a few great stories about his father and then they fired the Torque chopper up and drove it up on the main stage. The recipient, Spc. Mancilla, along with his family, saw it for the first time and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”
Faber echoes the sentiment of the day, saying, “It meant a lot to be part of Operation Gratitude. The military fights for our freedom and without them I wouldn’t be able to do what I do every day. I could tell it meant a lot to the families at the event and it felt great to give back. I would love to continue to be involved with Operation Gratitude next year and in the future.”
Operation Gratitude looks to ship its one millionth care package in 2013.
Operation Gratitude is a non-profit corporation out of Van Nuys, California, that has sent individually addressed care packages and personal letters to troops, their children, Veterans, and First Responders since 2003. Driven by hundreds of thousands of volunteers and donors who have a deep appreciation and gratitude for the sacrifices being made by our men and women in service, their goals are simple: to lift morale and bring smiles to service members’ faces. Judging by the expressions of those gathered at the special unveiling, it seems they are exceeding their goals.