Operation Firm Handshake was dreamed up by Max Valdez and Joe Guereca, as they were talking over a few beers in the Coal City Area Club. Joey, active with veterans in Chicago, mentioned how he would like to have a picnic for his veterans down here. He then said, "Or better yet, a picnic for all veterans and their families - there isn't anything like it in Illinois!" Max liked the idea and said, "I can make that happen".
Max called Bill Bomba and said, "I've got something in the works that I want you to help me with.' Max told Bill about the whole idea, and Bill was in. They contacted Glenn Gravil, who is also active with veterans in Coal City, to see if he was interested in joining the mission, which he was. Mike Guereca and Jesse Valdez were also involved with the first picnic.
With the generous donations of local businesses, we had our first Operation Firm Handshake picnic, which was put together in just six weeks in 2013. There were around 150-200 people in attendance at the first picnic.
Operation Firm Handshake is a "Meet and Greet" type of event: an opportunity to come meet other vets from different conflicts and services. We all “Leave it at the Gate”: we're here to have fun and enjoy the day. Bottom line: we did our duty, now let's enjoy a day together! All vets are welcome.
We hope you'll come out and enjoy the day with us.
OFH Core committee: