From the Sanibel-Captiva Breeze Newspaper, April 12, 2011
He founded the nationally acclaimed military outreach program that has helped thousands of servicemen and women in the 6 years of its existence.
Operation Open Arms is a 501c3 public charity with no payroll, yet through more than 200 sponsors it extends benefits to U.S. Troops. Capt. John “Giddy Up” Bunch started the Pine Island charity to provide benevolent services to those who serve our country.
“I didn’t expect the response,” said Bunch about the success of OOA.
Operation Open Arms has the most diversified benefits package for troops and their family. They include fishing charters, lodging, restaurants, limo service, golf, bowling, tennis, dental and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder mental heath services at no charge. In addition, it has provided 79 free weddings to active military personnel. On Saturday, OOA will celebrate its 80th wedding at Pink Shell on Fort Myers Beach.
The biggest honor will be bestowed upon OOA April 18, when the Seven Seals award will be received by Bunch. An awards luncheon will be held at Gulf Harbour Country Club with Capt. Schott A. Buschman, 7th District Chief of Staff for the United States Coast Guard, will be the guest speaker.
“I wish there was an award for every sponsor of Operations Open Arms and regret there is not,” said Bunch of receiving the highest state award given by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) from the Department of Defense. “Operation Open Arms is honored to receive the Seven Seals Award and realize this recognition from ESGR.”
The real heroes, according to Bunch, are those who support OOA through donations and sponsorship. The name of each person and company is a testament to their service and love of country.
“Those associated with Operation Open Arms perform tangible acts of kindness and demonstrate their patriotism through their actions not their words,” said Bunch.
He thinks President George H. W. Bush summed up OOA’s mission when he said, “There can be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others.”
The Seven Seals is awarded in recognition of an individual’s outstanding achievement, initiative or support over time that promotes the mission of ESGR. It is symbolic of the seven U.S. military reserve branches supported by ESGR – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, along with the Air National Guard. Seven Seals is the only award that transcends both the employer awards and volunteer awards programs give by ESGR.
“Our loyal and faithful contributors who believe in our mission continue to sustain us through these challenging economic times,” said Bunch of the continuous support of Operation Open Arms. “Collectively, we share one common belief. Service to our country is ongoing.”
OOA has been featured twice on NBC’s Today Show and has received numerous esteemed awards. It also assists in military funerals and arrangements. To volunteer or be of service to the troops, contact Bunch at 822-8888. Visit its website at http://www.operationopenarms.com, which is managed and designed by U.S. Navy veteran Milley Burden.
ESGR is a Department of Defense agency with a mission to educate, develop and promote a culture in which all American employers support and value the military service of their employees, to ensure national security. It will, when necessary, provide mediation for employers of Guard or Reserve employees, to assist in the resolution of conflicts from an employee’s military commitment.
Previous Seven Seals recipients include Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.