|Vietnam Veterans of America|
For nearly 23 years Operation Paperback has worked to fulfill its mission: getting books to active-duty service members and veterans around the world. Chrissy Honeywell, its CEO and president, recently spoke to us about the history and passion behind the organization.
When her husband Rick Honeywell was deployed to Kuwait in 1999, the base had few amenities. He mentioned to his wife that he and his fellow airmen were bored when they were off duty. She told her father, who began collecting books.
“My father emptied his shelves, and suddenly there were 800 books in Kuwait,” she said. “And that wasn’t the end of it. My father continued to solicit books from friends and family. Then Rick supplied a few addresses of other overseas locations, and Operation Paperback was born.”
Chrissy Honeywell could sense her father’s dedication to the work. “He was definitely on a mission from the very beginning. He printed labels that said ‘Operation Paperback’ (and included contact information) and put one on each book. As the books were shared, word began to spread, and more locations were added to our mailing list. My dad also created a basic, one-page website, and slowly the people who wanted to send books found us, too.”
The project also reflects the thoughtfulness and strategy of commanding officers. “We’ve had several chaplains and unit leaders ask us for special titles over the years,” Honeywell said. “Most of these requests are for personal development books, subjects like leadership and personal growth. For those projects we usually send out an email blast to our volunteers explaining what is needed. Many times we will set up some online links so that volunteers can easily support the project by purchasing the titles on the Wish List.”
Operation Paperback, she said, has been “immensely satisfying to all of us. Our volunteers love these projects, too, and any time we put out the word that books are needed somewhere, the online Wish List is usually completely purchased in a couple of hours. It is amazing and humbling to be a part of this. I have been overwhelmed so many times by the outpouring of generosity of our volunteers in support of those who are serving—or who have served—our country.”
Honeywell seemed the most interested when I asked how VVA members could help their operation. “As the years have passed and our mission has expanded to include every person who has served, we are having trouble reaching everyone through word-of-mouth alone,” she said. “We would love to reach every veteran who wants to read, and send books to both them and their families.
“Vietnam Veterans of America is in a unique position to help us let every American veteran know they are remembered and appreciated. America thanks you for your service, and thanks you for the sacrifices you made both in the course of that service and in your lives afterward.
“Books are a wonderful way to relax and escape and to learn new things. We can even find audio books and large-print books for those who prefer them. We would be honored and thrilled if VVA would spread the word far and wide that Operation Paperback volunteers are ready to support every veteran with books.”
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