Retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Schmiegel is the CEO of the national nonprofit organization Operation Gratitude, whose mission is to forge strong bonds between Americans and their Military and First Responder Heroes through volunteer service projects, acts of gratitude, and meaningful engagements in communities nationwide. Since 2003, Operation Gratitude has mobilized millions of volunteers nationwide and impacted more than 3 million deployed Service Members, their children left behind, and First Responders, Recruit Graduates, Veterans, Wounded Heroes and their Caregivers, as well as COVID-19 Frontline Responders. Schmiegel’s role is to oversee strategic planning and build national partnerships to further Operation Gratitude’s reach as a preeminent military support organization while expanding hands-on volunteerism to help bridge the civilian-service divide in communities across America.
Prior to Operation Gratitude, Lieutenant Colonel Schmiegel founded Hiring Our Heroes – a nationwide grassroots campaign run through the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment in hundreds of cities across America. Since its inception, Hiring Our Heroes has held more than 1,000 job fairs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and on military installations overseas. To date, more than 500,000 of our nation’s heroes have been hired as a result of the program. He went on to serve as the first-ever President of Thanks USA, expanding the scope of its mission from providing post-secondary, need-based scholarships to military spouses and children to include Pathways for Patriots, an innovative program to provide meaningful employment for the scholars upon graduation.
LtCol Schmiegel is a Class of 1989 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel after 20 years on active duty. In addition to an early combat tour to Kuwait for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Schmiegel served as the principal adviser to the NATO commander from 2003-2006, deploying to over 50 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Schmiegel also wrote the strategic plans for NATO’s training mission in Iraq, its increased presence in Afghanistan, and disaster relief operations for Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Pakistan. In 2008, Schmiegel served as the military assistant to the special envoy for Middle East Regional Security and deployed to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where he worked with Israeli and Palestinian authorities on the peace process.
Kevin lives in Arlington Virginia with his wife Laura. When he is not working, he focuses all of his time and energy on their five children and two dogs.