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Jose Garcia Aponte, along with his former wife Maribel Garcia, came up with the idea for Operation Giveback for Wounded Warriors Inc (OGB). Jose is a retired US Army Command Sergeant Major who served almost 30 years in the Army. He said that their idea to develop OGB was their way of giving back to their commUNITY.
“The Army to me wasn’t a job, it was a dream. I have a passion for the military,” said Garcia-Aponte. He stated that one of his mentors, CSM Larry Taylor, told him one day: ”Troop, Soldiers are serious business”. Jose never forgot those wise words.
Truth be told, OGB was born after he and Maribel saw the Oprah Winfrey TV Show “America’s Bravest Family” in which a lady by the name of Teresa Arciola told her story of how she drove 5 hours one way to see her son’s grave (US ARMY Specialist Michael Arciola) in Arlington National Cemetery “Section 60”. Her story was raw and in your face, and Jose said it broke his heart. It was during that TV show in January 2011 that the seed was planted.
The seed took root following Jose’s own Oncology visit. It was there in the doctor’s office parking lot that Jose decided to stop running from what he knew must be done. He and Maribel settled into their hearts that something had to be done. It was at the end of that Oprah show in January that Ms. Winfrey challenged her audience to do something in their commUNITY to support our Veterans. On 14 May 2011 the Inaugural Operation Giveback 5/10k run.walk.roll & Warrior Kids Race was born. They expected 200-500 people, but on event day, 1080 individuals came to the beautiful grounds of the UCF Campus to show their support and respect for our heroes.
OGB wanted to set itself apart from other organizations and events. One of the characteristics that made the OGB event so unique was that it not only supported the Wounded Warriors but their families as well. It was decided from that initial event that they would sponsor all expenses paid vacations for four Active Duty Wounded Warriors, and their families to travel to Orlando, FL for the weekend of the event. Additionally, the OGB run.walk.roll event is set apart from other organizations' events because it focused on making the event a family-oriented day. Home Depot was the sponsor for the Kids Corner with two inflatables and over seven games for the kids. And the parents had a great time.
A third way that OGB is different from other events is that they host a Wounded Warriors and Sponsor Appreciation Dinner designed to show their appreciation for their contributions to the cause. At the inaugural event, Retired Major General Ron Johnson, Vice President of the National Basketball Referees Association (at that time), was the Keynote Speaker. Throughout the year many other amazing individuals like Tom Ziglar, Howard Partridge, and Billy Cox have shared their appreciation and wisdom at our appreciation dinner.
A fourth way that OGB makes a tangible difference was born after the founders watched a news video about Arlington National Cemetery Section 60, which inspired the development of a new program under the OGB Umbrella. It was named OGB Section 60. Under this program, they now have two projects: the OGB Christmas Gift Project (providing Christmas gifts for Fallen Heroes' Children), and the OGB Making Dreams Come True Project. Such a program was developed to make a positive difference in the lives of our Fallen Heroes' Families: the widows and the children we have inherited from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thanks to the generosity of our local commUNITY, as well as renowned motivational speaker Mr. Zig Ziglar, who made his voice heard by sponsoring the Warrior and family from Ft Hood, TX, OGB was able to make a significant difference in the lives of Active-Duty Families as well as Retired Wounded Warriors and families that traveled to our event. Thanks to many local sponsors we are able to cover all of our expenses and donate to organizations that support our mission statement: to raise awareness and resources for our Wounded Warriors and their families, and the children of our Fallen Heroes. As Maribel shared, none of this would have been possible if it had not been for the tremendous support of our countless volunteers from schools, churches, the Boy Scouts, and to everyday people.
What started as an idea just to do something to add value to their local commUNITY has taken off! As Jose likes to say: when a baby is born, they learn to crawl, walk, and run. As the good book so clearly declared that “everything under the sun has an expiration date” hence, Operation Giveback went thru a rebranding to include the expansion of its mission statement which now includes the commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of abused and neglected children, women of domestic abuse, abandoned seniors, homeless veterans, and seniors devastated by a natural disaster. In 2018, Jose established Project Giveback, Inc (PGB) www.pgb1.org, and since Team PGB has dedicated its efforts to making a tangible difference in the lives of those hurting. Today, what started as a Godly idea continues to keep its initial mandate to love, inspire, and make a profound difference, one individual at a time.
Jose continues to stand in the philosophy of his childhood hero who stated that "Any time you have an OPPORTUNITY to make a DIFFERENCE in the world and you DON'T, then you are WASTING YOUR TIME ON EARTH"-Roberto Clemente
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