Capt. John “Giddy Up” Bunch founded Operation Open Arms, a nationally acclaimed military outreach program that has helped thousands of servicemen and women in its six years of its existence.
Now it's come of age.
For its achievements, Operation Open Arms and Bunch was given the Seven Seals award April 18 at Gulf Harbour Country Club with Capt. Schott A. Buschman, Seventh District chief of staff for the U.S. Coast Guard, as 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 from the Department of Defense.
Operation Open Arms benefits for troops and their families include fishing charters, lodging, restaurants, limo service, golf, bowling, tennis, dental and free post-traumatic stress disorder mental heath services.
It has also provided 80 free weddings to active military personnel, including the most recent April 23 at Pink Shell on Fort Myers Beach. Operation Open Arms also assists in military funerals and arrangements.
The 501c3 public charity has no one on payroll yet its 200 sponsors today extend benefits from the Pine Island charity to many who serve our country. Those are the real heroes, according to Bunch.
“Those associated with Operation Open Arms perform tangible acts of kindness and demonstrate their patriotism through their actions not their words,” said Bunch.
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 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 . “Collectively, we share one common belief. Service to our country is ongoing.”
Operation Open Arms has been featured twice on NBC’s Today Show and received numerous awards. To volunteer call Bunch at 822-8888 or go to operationopenarms.com.
ESGR is a Department of Defense agency designed to promote American employer support of the military service of their employees. It also provides mediation for employers of Guard or Reserve employees to help resolve conflicts arising 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.