When Air Force veteran Ed Roshitsh decided to use a business networking site to offer up five free airline tickets to military members hoping to get home for Christmas, he had no idea how “linked in” he was.
“Active duty US armed forces member who can’t afford to fly home for holidays? I will personally pay for five random service member’s airfare home,” Roshitsh, the CEO of a North Carolina software company, wrote on LinkedIn. “Share and have the hero DM me. I will pull five names out of a hat on Dec. 3rd.”
For 18 hours all he heard was crickets.
But then the silence gave way to persistent rounds of “You’ve got mail.”
“An email comes in. Another email comes in. Another email comes in,” he told WBTV.
By the time the Holidays for Heroes deadline rolled around, Roshitsh said he received 60 requests for tickets, representing each branch of the military. In a video live-streamed on YouTube, the veteran said his LinkedIn post generated 250,000 views, 3,000 comments and about 1,000 shares.
“I thought it would be a really nice way to do something for Christmas for some folks. Little did I know,” the CEO of Dude Solutions said on the video, his voice breaking.
Among those commenting were others wishing to help so, when the official drawing took place on Dec. 3, Roshitsh was able to draw 26 names, the original five he committed to and an additional 21 offered by others.
“The thing just blew up,” Roshitsh told WRAL TechWire. “Like a snowball going down a hill, it caught more traction.”
Before he could dust off the snow more than 60 requests were covered by those who followed the LinkedIn thread.
“I am shocked,” Roshitsh posted. “I am not making this up. The number of donors and the number of names perfectly matched. 64 of our troops headed home.”
Even the staff at LinkedIn took notice, posting their own note of thanks.
“We really appreciate all the hard work you are doing for members of the Armed Forces,” the post read. “You are truly making a difference in the community through your goodwill and we know your actions will inspire others.”
Roshitsh told WRAL TechWire he is purchasing the five most expensive tickets, including a $3,000 fare from Okinawa, Japan to Palm Springs, California.
“Anybody could do this,” he said. “Sponsoring one military person to get back home from the holidays is a real tangible thing. I had no special power. I had a keyboard and five sentences, and got this thing rolling. Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
Apparently, the way will not end with Christmas.
In another LinkedIn post, Roshitsh said he is launching a non-profit as he looks ahead to 2020.
“When I sat down a week ago and made my original post, I had no idea what would happen,” he said. “The resulting outpouring of generosity has overwhelmed me. Emotionally and physically. I hardly slept trying to stay on top of this and my day job as a CEO of a larger software company.
“I will be making this a ‘thing’ and lighting up a 501(c)(3) to fill this need. In other words, a team, a website, a process, etc. to make this bigger and better. Getting more home in 2020.
“Getting our active duty military folks ‘Home for the Holidays’ is a tangible way for people to make a personal difference.”
Photo courtesy: Andreas Weiland/Unsplash
Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.